Data

General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Governance & Political Institutions
Social Welfare
Specific Topics
Pensions & Retirement
Low-income Assistance
Government Spending
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
South Africa
Scope of Influence
National
Components of this Case
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Robertson
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Delft
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Genadendal
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Khayelitsha
Files
Black Sash Report 2019 - The negative impact of the decommissioning of SASSA pay points on the bodies of rural, elderly social grant recipients in the Western Cape
Links
Black Sash - Hands off Our Grants
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Research
Approach
Independent action
Evaluation, oversight, & social auditing
Research
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Research or experimental method
Evaluation, oversight, and social auditing
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Recruit or select participants
Plan, map and/or visualise options and proposals
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Arts
Community-Based Participatory Research
Mapping
Body Mapping
River of Life
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Ask & Answer Questions
Storytelling
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings
Public Report
Primary Organizer/Manager
Black Sash
Type of Organizer/Manager
Community Based Organization
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
University of the Western Cape, Black Sash
Type of Funder
Non-Governmental Organization
Academic Institution
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes

CASE

Participatory Research on the Decommissioning of South African Social Services

February 28, 2020 Jesi Carson, Participedia Team
February 22, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
August 23, 2019 Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
February 13, 2019 rjpasensie
General Issues
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Governance & Political Institutions
Social Welfare
Specific Topics
Pensions & Retirement
Low-income Assistance
Government Spending
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
South Africa
Scope of Influence
National
Components of this Case
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Robertson
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Delft
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Genadendal
Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Khayelitsha
Files
Black Sash Report 2019 - The negative impact of the decommissioning of SASSA pay points on the bodies of rural, elderly social grant recipients in the Western Cape
Links
Black Sash - Hands off Our Grants
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Research
Approach
Independent action
Evaluation, oversight, & social auditing
Research
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Open to All With Special Effort to Recruit Some Groups
Targeted Demographics
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Research or experimental method
Evaluation, oversight, and social auditing
Community development, organizing, and mobilization
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Recruit or select participants
Plan, map and/or visualise options and proposals
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Arts
Community-Based Participatory Research
Mapping
Body Mapping
River of Life
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Ask & Answer Questions
Storytelling
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Hearings/Meetings
Public Report
Primary Organizer/Manager
Black Sash
Type of Organizer/Manager
Community Based Organization
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
Funder
University of the Western Cape, Black Sash
Type of Funder
Non-Governmental Organization
Academic Institution
Staff
Yes
Volunteers
Yes

A participatory research initiative on the decommissioning of the South African Social Services social grant pay points. The research will involve community engagement with the South African non-profit organisation, Black Sash.

Problems and Purpose

In 2018, the process of decommissioning the previously centralised South African Social Services (SASSA) payment centres brought significant challenges for grant recipients in accessing their money, including: additional costs in terms of travel, time, and finances as well as losses in dignity through long queuing, exposure to the elements, poor access to toilets and the like[1]. 

In exploring this issue, the Department of Political Studies at the University of the Western Cape has partnered with Black Sash, a civil society organisation that has long championed human rights in South Africa. For many years, Black Sash have worked with communities in participatory ways to give feedback to the state on the experiences of grant beneficiaries at SASSA pay points. In 2019, this approach was retooled to explore the impact of the decommissioning process on grant recipients through using both participatory tools and methods. The findings of this research will inform further engagement on this issue by Black Sash with the South African government. What is presented here is the parent case for ongoing participatory research. The research involves four case studies which are held in different locations in the Western Cape and are part of the same overarching participatory research:

The collaboration between Participedia and Black Sash offered an opportunity to test the Participedia website. It was the first use of this platform to document research cases before and during their implementation, and the component entries above were published after the fieldwork phase for each location. In this way, Participedia was used extensively to document the research process. 

Background History and Context

In South Africa, citizens have the right to social protection in various forms, including through the issuing of various types of social grants[2]. The main social grants available to South Africans are the Child Support Grant, intended to assist poor parents to provide for their children, and state pensions for the elderly[3]. These grants are administered by the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) that currently pays $1,329,136 to 10.9 million people[4]. 

SASSA operates as the payment agency for the Department of Social Development by administering the payment of social grants to grant beneficiaries[5]. Due to problems associated with illegal and unethical deductions, in 2018 SASSA were ordered by the Constitutional Court to stop their partnership with their partner, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and phase out the old SASSA cards[6]. This has led to a decommissioning of previous SASSA pay points that were used to pay grants to beneficiaries. 

The new partner of SASSA in administering the payment of social grants is the South African Post Office[7]. However, in addition to the post office, grant recipients can also collect their money at ATM’s and selected retailers – and indeed most use these private means rather than the Post Office. 

SASSA and Black Sash

The South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) is a division of the Department of Social Development which administers the payment of social grants. For many years, SASSA used private companies, in particular Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) owned by Net1, to provide pay points where beneficiaries could draw their money[8]. However, from as early as 2012 problems were detected with illegal and unethical deductions from social grants to small lenders facilitated by CPS, and defended by the then Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini[9]. 

Challenged by the Black Sash in the media and in court, SASSA and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), backed by Dlamini, refused to change their practices until a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling required the government to phase out by the end of September 2018 and stop using the old SASSA cards by December 2018[10]. To challenge SASSA and CPS, Black Sash conducted the ‘Hands Off Our Grants’ campaign[11]. This campaign was aimed at ensuring that grant beneficiaries receive full cash value of their grants, that the leadership and governance of state institutions was improved, and that beneficiaries and community organisations are able to advocate for this on their own. 

SASSA and Decommissioning

In February 2018, Dlamini was replaced by Susan Shabangu as Minister of Social Development. Under her guidance, it was agreed that SASSA would phase in the payment of social grant beneficiaries either into accounts at the South African Post Office (SAPO) or, if beneficiaries preferred, into commercial bank[12]. Hence, instead of going to SASSA pay points to collect their grants, recipients must now access their money in one of three ways: through (i) the tellers at the Post Office or commercial banks, (ii) through the ATMs linked to these institutions, or (iii) retailers who offer cash like Boxer, PicknPay, Spar and others[13]. 

Thus, where in April 2018, SASSA had 8086 pay points, and 3.1 million beneficiaries paid by CPS, by November 2018 SASSA had just 1740 pay points serviced by the Post Office, and no beneficiaries were paid by CPS[14]. The remaining 1740 pay points are situated 10 kilometres or more from a post office, an ATM or a retail store[15]. By November 2018, 61% of beneficiaries were paid through the Post Office, with the remaining 19% through Grindrod Bank and 20% through the other commercial banks, principally Capitec, Nedbank, ABSA, FNB and the like[16]. Notably, by October 2018 drew R7.6 billion rand from SASSA, with 60% from ATMS, 33% from retailers, and just 7% from tellers at the Post Office and in the banks[17]. 

SASSA claimed that the October and November payment cycles were ‘successful and beneficiaries were able to access their grants through a variety of payment channels without major challenges. Most beneficiaries accessed their grants through the National Payment System primarily ATMs and retailers like Pick n Pay, Boxer and Spar[18]. However, a recent parliamentary Social Development committee meeting heard that ‘there were long queues and over-crowding specifically in shopping malls, SAPO outlets, ATMs on the first three days of the month’, as well as security issues with burglaries, cash-in-transit heists, attempted robberies as well as identify fraud[19]. 

Black Sash[20] identified further issues with the decommissioning that negatively identified beneficiaries including the long travel distances to the new pay points, the additional time this incurs, as well as the fact that beneficiaries are often charged service fees of up to R30 by banks, especially as mobile ATMS only par R750 at a time and so multiple withdrawals are required. There are also no toilets or chairs at many of the remaining pay points, and some of the older beneficiaries were not comfortable using ATMS encouraging them to send others on their behalf.[21] In addition, the recent Black Sash report [22]identified that often beneficiaries had to spend money at retailers before they could claim their benefits; that retailers often did not have cash in hand to pay beneficiaries; that the rules around the card swap process were not clearly communicated; and that rural beneficiaries felt badly treated by officials. 

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The research and engaging of the SASSA decommissioning is a collaborative project between the Black Sash, the University of the Western Cape and Participedia[23]. The University of the Western Cape (UWC) provides research capacity for the Black Sash in understanding how the SASSA pay point decommissioning has affected social grant recipients[24]. UWC assists Black Sash in gathering evidence on the administration of social grants in South Africa. Black Sash assists in the sourcing of community-based organisation through its partnerships with various community organisations[25]. Additionally, these community-based organisations also provide participants for the research. This project relies on the assistance of UWC postgraduate students who through a hands on approach to the research and its design, will gain experience in work integrated learning, and in developing a new approach to case development for the Participedia website[26]. 

The collaboration between Participedia and Black Sash allows for an opportunity to test the Participedia website. Participedia will be used extensively to document the research process. 

The funding of this project is sourced from all three collaborators[27]. Black Sash will cover the costs of its civil society partners involved in the project and UWC will cover the research and student case writing costs. Participedia provides resources for the digitisation of the participatory products. 

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The research consists of four case-studies in important locations around the Western Cape in South Africa, two urban and two rural. Participants for the research in each case were found through the collaboration with Black Sash, and its community partner organisations[28]. These participants in the research are grant recipients who report being negatively affected by the decommissioning. Each organisation provides ten participants and they engaged in three (non-consecutive) days of research.[29] 

Methods and Tools Used

The design of this project draws upon the exploratory qualitative work already done by Black Sash. The research is qualitative overall, although various kinds of data, "quantitative and qualitative, numerical, written, oral and visual were collected."[29] There were four sites, with research conducted over a two months period from the beginning of February to the end of March 2019.[29] The four sites were located in Delft, Khayelitsha, Robertson and Genadendal, all within the Western Cape. The research is divided into two further phases: i.) fieldwork and ii.) products. The research engaged with five key variables that will be tested through a variety of research tools. The five variables are time, finance, dignity, opportunity cost and distance.[29] The participatory aspects of this research are to be found within the research tools used. In the collection of data, researchers will use three main tools[29]:

  1. Interview and observation
  2. River of Life 
  3. Body mapping

The individual participant interviews and observation schedule were to collect factual and perceptual data on the grant experience. Together with this, researchers administered to participants two participatory research tasks. The first of these is the River of Life. The River of Life enables participants to subjectively reflect on the grant experience using a visual narrative method[30]. This method involves getting participants to reflect on their grant experience by representing it as a river. Each obstacle, challenge or highlight of the journey was annotated on the river. 

In conjunction with the River of Life participants also engaged in a body mapping exercise. Body mapping is a narrative method that is used to gain an understanding of oneself and our bodies in relation to the world we live in[31]. This method is used to hone in on the dignity variable to allow participants to create narratives of the effect of the decommissioning process on themselves. Participants drew an outline of the bodies (drawn to scale) and painted/decorated their body maps to express emotional responses to the decommissioning process and to present associated issues of the decommissioning.[29] 

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

i) Fieldwork Phase

February to March 2019, in each of the four sites in the Western Cape, researchers undertook a 3 day process[29]:

  • Day 1: Researchers meet with the grant recipients, as organised by the Partner community-based organisation (CBO) of Black Sash. This day involves explaining the project, securing ethical clearance and conducting ‘River of Life,’ a participatory activity designed to learn about grant collection day experiences. 
  • Day 2: Researchers travel with selected participants to collect their money, and interviewing, observing and video documenting the process of the day.
  • Between Day 1 and 3: Researchers collate the data, produce visual products, and draft site-specific information.
  • Day 3 (roughly a week after Day 1): debrief, findings presented back to the participants and workshopped, including a participatory ‘Body Mapping’ exercise. Notably, the Participedia website is used to report back findings from day 1. [29]

ii) Products phase

April to May 2019, researchers produced research products [29]:

  • Ongoing findings from each research site published on the Participedia website.
  • The production of a project report by the end of May
  • The production of one or more documentary videos of the research process

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The project has informed Black Sash’s research and advocacy around the profound difficulties that decommissioning created for how beneficiaries receive their social grants. Thus, Black Sash has continued to do similar research in another 16 sites around the country to build up a bigger evidence base for their claims, and begun to engage the public through the media[32] and SASSA directly to address some of the challenges posed by decommissioning. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Researchers anticipated to find that there will be inadequate service delivery methods taking place at collection points. Other findings such as the Post Offices running out of money, beneficiaries being charged to withdraw money at certain retailers and lengthy traveling to reach the nearest paypoint were also anticipated. With regards to the five variables that will be tested (time, opportunity cost, finance, travel and dignity) it is anticipated that the dignity variable will yield the most significant response from participants when they engage with the river of life and body mapping research tools. The use of these two participatory methods could elicit emotional responses to the decommissioning process that would otherwise have been obscured with more traditional research methods. 

It is trusted that the outcomes of this project will assist the Black Sash in advocating for the beneficiaries who have been negatively affected by the decommissioning of pay points. 

Concurrently, it is trusted that by publishing the fieldwork process on the Participedia site will offer a new approach to case development for the Participedia site. 

Actual research findings from each of the four sites is as follows:

For more analysis of the findings, see the attached Black Sash research report.

See Also

Black Sash

Black Sash Making All Voices Count Community-based Monitoring Project

Participatory Arts

Community-Based Participatory Research

Mapping

References

[1] Letshwiti, P. 2018. ‘SASSA beneficiaries on problems with payments: ‘They’ve turned us back’. News24. 6 July 2018. https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/sassa-beneficiaries-on-problems-with-payments-theyve-turned-us-back-20180706 

[2] Kelly, G, 2017, ‘Everything you need to know about social grants’, GroundUp. 7 April 2017, https://www.groundup.org.za/article/everything-you-need-know-about-social-grants_820/

[3] Kelly, G, 2017, ‘Everything you need to know about social grants’

[4] SASSA, 2018. ‘Progress report on Implementation of Constitutional Court Order-Presentation to Portfolio Committee’, 7 November 2018, https://slideplayer.com/slide/16195109/

[5] SASSA, Our Mandate and Objectives, n.d https://www.sassa.gov.za/Pages/Our-Mandate-and-Objectives.aspx date acessed: 8 February 2019

[6] Constitutional Court of South Africa, SASSA V Minister of Social Development CCT 48/7 Post Judgement Media Summary, South Africa 2018

[7] Seakgwe, P. 2018. SASSA and SAPO assure beneficiaries that the Post office is ready to pay social grants. http://www.sassa.gov.za/index.php/newsroom/340-sassa-and-sapo-assure-beneficiaries-that-the-post-office-is-ready-to-pay-social-grants, [BROKEN LINK]

[8] GroundUp Staff, 2015. ‘Spotlight on Social Grants: How the system works’. Groundup 7 OCtober 2015, https://www.groundup.org.za/article/spotlight-social-grants-how-system-works_3369/ 

[9] Black Sash, Timeline of events, https://www.blacksash.org.za/index.php/timeline-of-events

[10] GroundUp Staff, 2018. ‘SASSA has two weeks to show plan to phase out CPS’, https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-has-two-weeks-show-plan-phase-out-service-provider-cps/

[11] Black Sash, Hands Off Our Grants. https://www.blacksash.org.za/index.php/sash-in-action/advocacy-in-partnership/hands-off-our-grants,

[12] Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018 ‘SASSA progress report on Constitutional Court order, SASSA strike action’, Social Development Committee, 7 November 2018. Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’, GroundUp 28 August 2018. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-accused-shutting-down-cash-points-too-soon/

[13] SASSA, 2018, ‘Progress report on Implementation of Constitutional Court Order-Presentation to Portfolio Committee’, 7 November 2018

[14] Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018, ‘SASSA progress report on Constitutional Court order, SASSA strike action’, Social Development Committee, 7 November 2018. Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’, GroundUp 28 August 2018. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-accused-shutting-down-cash-points-too-soon/

[15] Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’, GroundUp 28 August 2018. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-accused-shutting-down-cash-points-too-soon/

[16] Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’, GroundUp 28 August 2018. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-accused-shutting-down-cash-points-too-soon/

[17] Black Sash. 2018. Graphs supplied on 5 December 2018

[18] Parliamentary Monitoring Group, 2018, ‘SASSA progress report on Constitutional Court order, SASSA strike action’, Social Development Committee, 7 November 2018 https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/27459/ 

[19] SASSA, 2018, ‘Progress report on Implementation of Constitutional Court Order-Presentation to Portfolio Committee’, 7 November 2018. Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’, GroundUp 28 August 2018. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/sassa-accused-shutting-down-cash-points-too-soon/.

[20] Black Sash, 2018. Report to SASSA and SAPO. New SASSA/ SAPO card swap Transition Monitoring and Decommissioning of SASSA Pay Points, 16 August - 16 September 2018. 

[21] Maragele, B & Ngubane, N.. ‘SASSA accused of shutting down cash points too soon’

[22] Black Sash,. Report to SASSA and SAPO

[23] Piper, L 2019.‘Funding proposal: Trialling a new approach to case writing on Participedia x.y.z: Using participatory methods to research the decommissioning of SASSA pay points in South Africa’. 15 January 2019

[24] Piper, L. 2019. ‘Concept note: Researching the decommissioning of SASSA paypoints 2019 through participatory methods’. 15 january 2019

[25] Piper, L. 2019. ‘Concept note: Researching the decommissioning of SASSA paypoints 2019 through participatory methods’. 15 january 2019

[26] Piper, L ‘Funding proposal’

[27] Piper, L ‘Funding proposal’

[28] Piper, L ‘Concept note

[29] Piper, L., Bailey, S., and Pasensie, R. 2019. "‘Like a blow to my body': The negative impact of the decommissioning of SASSA pay points on the bodies of rural, elderly social grant recipients in the Western Cape." SASSA Decommissioning Research Report for Black Sash.

[30] Moussa, Z, 2009 Tips for Trainers. Rivers of Life, PLA [formerly PLA Notes] 60 (Community based adaptation to climate change). IIED, London.

[31] Botha, S 2017 ‘Using metaphoric body-mapping to encourage reflection on the developing identity of pre-service teachers’ S. Afr. j. educ. [online]. 2017, vol.37, n.3 [cited 2019-02-11], pp.1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.15700/saje.v37n3a1377

[32] Yauger, M. 2019. 'Long queues, no toilets: Closure of old SASSA paypoints leaves pensioners in the lurch - study', news24, https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/long-queues-no-toilets-closure-of-old-sassa-paypoints-leaves-pensioners-in-the-lurch-study-20191006

External Links

https://www.blacksash.org.za/ 

http://livelihoods.org.za/2018/11/05/blh-update-7-november-2018-water-restrictions/

https://www.groundup.org.za/article/spotlight-social-grants-how-system-works_3369/ 

Notes