Data

General Issues
Social Welfare
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Specific Topics
Pensions & Retirement
Low-income Assistance
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
Robertson
Western Cape
South Africa
Scope of Influence
Metropolitan Area
Parent of this Case
Participatory Research on the Decommissioning of South African Social Services
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
Long queues, no toilets: Closure of old Sassa paypoints leaves pensioners in the lurch - study
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Research
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Research
Social mobilization
Evaluation, oversight, & social auditing
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Total Number of Participants
10
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Targeted Demographics
Elderly
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Participatory arts
Research or experimental method
Evaluation, oversight, and social auditing
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Body Mapping
River of Life
Workshop
Focus Group
Community-Based Participatory Research
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Ask & Answer Questions
Storytelling
Informal Social Activities
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Primary Organizer/Manager
Black Sash
Type of Organizer/Manager
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
Community Based Organization
Funder
University of the Western Cape, The Black Sash Trust, Participedia
Type of Funder
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
International Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
No

CASE

Decommissioning South African Social Services: Participatory Field Research in Robertson

February 28, 2020 Jesi Carson, Participedia Team
February 23, 2020 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
November 6, 2019 Scott Fletcher, Participedia Team
November 4, 2019 rjpasensie
June 10, 2019 rjpasensie
General Issues
Social Welfare
Human Rights & Civil Rights
Specific Topics
Pensions & Retirement
Low-income Assistance
Collections
Participedia Team
Location
Robertson
Western Cape
South Africa
Scope of Influence
Metropolitan Area
Parent of this Case
Participatory Research on the Decommissioning of South African Social Services
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
Long queues, no toilets: Closure of old Sassa paypoints leaves pensioners in the lurch - study
Start Date
End Date
Ongoing
No
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Research
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Approach
Research
Social mobilization
Evaluation, oversight, & social auditing
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Total Number of Participants
10
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Targeted Demographics
Elderly
Low-Income Earners
General Types of Methods
Participatory arts
Research or experimental method
Evaluation, oversight, and social auditing
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Body Mapping
River of Life
Workshop
Focus Group
Community-Based Participatory Research
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Professional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Face-to-Face
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Ask & Answer Questions
Storytelling
Informal Social Activities
Information & Learning Resources
No Information Was Provided to Participants
Decision Methods
Not Applicable
Primary Organizer/Manager
Black Sash
Type of Organizer/Manager
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
Community Based Organization
Funder
University of the Western Cape, The Black Sash Trust, Participedia
Type of Funder
Academic Institution
Non-Governmental Organization
International Organization
Staff
No
Volunteers
No

A case study of the Robertson rural community as part of a participatory research initiative on the decommissioning of the South African Social Services (SASSA) social grant pay points.

Problems and Purpose

This is a component case of a collaborative research project between University of the Western Cape and Black Sash. Overall, the research explores the effect of the decommissioning of the old SASSA (South African Social Services Agency) pay points and its former payment structure, especially on the elderly.[1] It has now been replaced by a payment infrastructure provided for by the South African Post Office (SAPO).[2] Additionally grant recipients may also receive their money at commercial banks and selected retailers.[3] This has resulted in a greater number of recipients accessing their grants through Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).[4] This component of the research project examines these changes in grant access, focusing on recipients in the Robertson rural community.

Background History and Context

Robertson is a rural farm community that is situated in the Cape Winelands region.[5] The town centre is mostly comprised of commercial business, restaurants and holiday accommodations.[6] The surrounding areas of Robertson are populated by various lower income, township and informal settlement housing. These areas are known to be poor and in recent times have become more unsafe.[7] Robertson has a mix of both “Coloured” and black African people with a sizable portion of foreign residents as well.[8] Robertson was selected as a case study because it is a poor settlement and has a large number of grant recipients. As a rural area, it also provides a different context and environment for the accessing of grants and the effect of the decommissioning process.

Robertson was formed as a result of a resolution by the Dutch Reformed Church in Swellendam to create a new congregation for the residents of the southern region of the Cape.[9] The church purchased land in the area and named it after Dr William Robertson, the first Dutch Reformed Church minister in Clanwilliam.[10] Robertson over its very long history has now become synonymous with the wine industry in the Western Cape. Wine farms, wine trade and wine tourism to the region are a mainstay for its local economy.[11] While the town has mushroomed in size over the years, its development has nonetheless been concentrated on the town centre and in its wine industry. The growing population size of residents in Robertson has led to the establishment of poor settlements and townships such as Nkqubela. The research took place in the Nkqubela township which is a predominantly black African township.[12]

Robertson, part of the Langeberg Municipality, depends on the agro-processing and wine industry. As a result, the jobs on offer within Robertson and the rest of the Langeberg Municipality are working on farms.[13] The nature of farm work is laborious and farm workers at the end of their tenure usually leave the towns they have worked on and settle in the township areas.[14] Nkqubela is one such township which houses many former and current farm workers and also has a growing number of migrants.[15]

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The entire research project is organised and funded through a collaborative project between Black Sash, University of the Western Cape (UWC) and Participedia.[16] The research in Robertson was specifically funded and organised through UWC and Black Sash.

To support these entities, local community-based organisations (CBO) working with Black Sash were used to help source participants for the research.[17] As a civil society organisation, Black Sash partners with CBOs to facilitate its goal of community engagement with government.[18] Through Black Sash, researchers were able to connect with relevant CBOs in the four chosen case studies. In Robertson, the CBO was Sunshine Daycare in the Nkqubela township of Robertson.[19] Sunshine Daycare is an educentre and daycare for young children in the Nkqubela township. It also provides outreach work to the elderly of Nkqubela.

For more information on the organizers of the full research project on SASSA’s decommissioning, see the parent case entry.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

For the overall research project the four component cases were selected to reflect both urban and rural settings.[20] The Robertson component case is an example of a rural setting. The researchers’ assumption was that decommissioning will affect rural and urban recipients differently, with urban areas less affected in terms of distance and time to travel than in rural areas.

Robertson was selected as it has a large, mostly poor settlement outside the town centre with a sizable number of, and almost even mix, of coloured and black African residents as well as foreign residents.[21] Robertson is known to be part of the Cape Winelands area[22] and the town centre is reasonably built up; however, the settlements surrounding the town are known to be poor. The surrounding towns of Bonnievale, McGregor, Montagu and Ashton are significantly smaller than Robertson.[23] Robertson serves as the largest town in this area.

The participants for the research in Robertson were recruited through the Black Sash advice office operating in Robertson in partnership with its community partner Sunshine Daycare.[24] Through the assistance of Sunshine Daycare, ten participants were sourced for the three day research process. The provision of food and travel costs for the participants were provided for by the CBO, who received a stipend from Black Sash. Participants were all elderly people who received old age grants.[25] Old age grants are the second largest grant type to be paid out and comes second to child support grants.

Methods and Tools Used

The design of this project draws upon exploratory qualitative previously undertaken by Black Sash. The research is qualitative overall, although various kinds of data - “quantitative and qualitative, numerical, written, oral and visual” - were collected.[26] In Robertson, as in all sites, the following participatory research methods, tools and techniques were used[27]:

  1. Focus groups: A discussion held between no more than ten participants led by a facilitator/researcher.
  2. Interviews: Individually administered series of questions to participants.
  3. Observation: Annotating participants and their environment by researchers.
  4. River of Life: Participatory research tool that gets participants to draw their experiences as a river.
  5. Body mapping: Participatory research tool that gets participants to explain the effects of an experience on their body and in relation to it.

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

The research engaged with five key variables tested through a variety of research tools. These five variables were time, finance, dignity, opportunity cost and distance.[28] The individual participant interviews, focus groups and observation schedule were used to collect factual and perceptual data on the grant experience. Together with this, two participatory research tasks were administered to participants. The first of these was the River of Life. The River of life enabled participants to subjectively reflect on the grant experience using a visual narrative method, where they reflect on their grant experience by representing it as a river.[29] Each obstacle, challenge or highlight of the journey was annotated on the river and then presented back to the group.[30]

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 was 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 their 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.[32] The body maps were also used to show the physical effect on the body such as stress and excitement that the day of grant receiving brings.

The research is designed in two phases: i.) fieldwork and ii) products.[33] The fieldwork phase comprises three, non-consecutive, days of data gathering. During the fieldwork phase of Robertson, researchers were engaged in the following:

i.) Fieldwork Phase

Day 1-workshop: On Thursday 28 February, the researchers met with the grant recipients, as organised by the partner organisation of Black Sash, Sunshine Daycare centre. The day involved “explaining the project, securing ethical clearance and conducting ‘rivers of life,’” a participatory activity designed to learn about grant collection day experiences.[34]

Day 2-grant recipient travel: On Friday 1 March, researchers travelled with selected participants to collect their money, while interviewing, observing and photographing the process of the day.

Day 3-workshop: On Friday 8 March, researchers debriefed the Robertson community which presented to them the interim findings.[35]

ii.) The products phase of the research was to be completed once all four case study sites have been conducted. This phase was completed between April to May 2019 and included:

  • 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, published on the Participedia website

On Thursday 28th February, researchers from the Department of Political Studies at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) conducted a workshop and interviews with 7 recipients of social grants in Robertson, Western Cape. The focus of the workshop on 28 February was on recipients’ experience of the change in the allocation of social grants from the SASSA pay point system to the new system.[36]

These recipients were all residents of Robertson township Nkqubela, and their presence at the workshop was facilitated by the Black Sash through its partnership with Sunshine Daycare centre. Following the workshop, researchers conducted a follow-along with participants as they went about collecting their grants.[37] This took place on Friday 1 March. This process involved participant interviews and observation.

The day 1 workshop was comprised of 7 participants of whom 5 were black African and 2 were Coloured, roughly mirroring the demographics of Nkqubela, Robertson. Most of the participants were female, with only 1 male. The average age of the group was 71.

Results per variable:

1. Finances

A significant difference is evident in the increased cost of accessing social grants. As the graph below demonstrates, the cost of accessing grants has increased for all participants, with participants RO2 and RO7 recorded having spent the most on accessing their social grants.

The change in cost in accessing grants now is mostly due to costs associated for travel and ATM fees, which for most are also new financial obligations.[38] The previous paypoint in Nkqubela was situated in the community and required no additional transport costs. Participants were able to access their grants via biometric fingerprint scanning and paid fees for accessing their grants. General confusion exists as to the actual costs of ATM fees (for withdrawals) and banking costs for account holders.[39]

2. Travel Time

6 of the 7 participants recorded spending more time traveling to get their grant now, than previously. Recipient RO2 says that they spend less time travelling to get their grant whereas recipient RO6 has recorded a significant increase in time travelling to get their grant than previously.

  

The paysites for grants are situated in Robertson town centre which is approximately 3.7 km from Nkqubela where the participants reside. The former paysite was a local town hall in Nkqubela which was a short distance for most participants. Given the greater distance, participants now have to walk further which has increased travel time. For those participants taking a taxi, an overall increase in time travelled was observed but substantially less so than those who walk.

3. Distance

In respect to the impact of decommissioning on the distance travelled to access these grants, the research revealed that all recipients have reported an increase in distance travelled. An average increase of 3.6 km was reported. This is because all recipients now have to travel to town to access their grants, in comparison to previously when the pay point was in Nkqubela. All recipients have reported that they now either have to walk longer distances or have to pay to take a taxi to get to town where the closest ATMs, retail stores and other means of accessing their grants are.[40] 

4. Opportunity cost

The focus on opportunity costs for grant recipients is to assess the loss of income or other activities, including the social opportunities, that the grant recipient may forgo in order to collect his/her grant.[41] Additionally, participants were also probed on the availability of cheaper goods on sale and chances for entrepreneurship that were present at the former paysite (prior to decommissioning) and whether these opportunities exist now (post decommissioning). All participants but one noted that there was a greater likelihood of accessing cheaper goods at the former paysite in Nkqubela because there were always stalls outside the paypoint offering grocery, clothing and homeware items for sale.

A participant stated that:

‘There are no opportunities for cheaper purchases you lose a lot of time because you leave early and return late so you can’t cook. On pay day I have this new style now of buying takeaways. That’s the only day one can afford takeaways’

Most participants were pensioners and therefore did not report the loss of a work day or loss of income when collecting their grants. However, participants noted that most of them were grandparents or caregivers and they could not look after their grandchildren or family members when they had to travel to Robertson town centre to collect their grants.

A participant stated that:

‘I cannot look after my children or make food for them. I spend the whole day in town. The lines are shorter two or three days after payday but I can’t wait that long. I must buy food for the children’.

The loss of a feeling of community was also reported with some noting that going to the paysite in Nkqubela was also an opportunity to meet and catch up with friends and the atmosphere was generally a happy and jovial one.[42] This was also noted in relation to the welcoming attitude of stall holders who knew their customers and invited conversation whereas retail workers in town, where participants now shop, are found to be less friendly and selling wares that are more expensive.

Ek het mense daar ontmoet en dit was lekker. Nou moet ek by die winkel gaan kos koop en dis baie duur. Ek gaan nou dorp toe ek kom weer terug op my eie’ (I met people there and it was nice now I have to buy food and stuff at the shop and it’s very expensive. Now I go to town and come back on my own)

5. Dignity

In terms of this variable, participants were questioned regarding changes surrounding dignified treatment by officials/retail workers, conditions under which they received their grant, access to adequate ablution facilities, safety, access to recourse and general sentiment surrounding the participants feelings of the grant collection process.

The participants noted that the previous paysite in Nkqubela was much closer and they did not feel uneasy about having to walk long distances. Most participants noted with concern the rise in crime in the area with one participants stating that:

Die parra parra is loskop. Hulle is ooral. Dra net jou stokkie by jou want as hulle jou geld vat, dan is jy die res van die maand honger’ (The thieves are everywhere. Make sure you have your stick with you because if they take your money then you will go hungry for the rest of the month)

The previous paysite in Nkqubela provided grant recipients with chairs, water, first aid (if needed) and access to clean toilets.[43] Elderly persons and the disabled were also served first.[44] Most grant recipients expressed happiness with the service and noted that the staff were friendly and helpful. If there was a problem or a grant beneficiary had a query, there was a SASSA (South African Social Service Agency) representative present to whom they could direct their queries.

The decommissioning of dedicated paysites such as the one formerly operating in Nkqubela have now given way to a multivariate payment system. This means that beneficiaries can collect the grant money at the Post Office, selected retailers and ATM (via their private bank account or with a SASSA card). There are no provisions for the elderly or disabled, no chairs, and no ablution facilities available at the new paysites. Lines at the ATM’s and retailers like Shoprite and Pick n Pay are exceptionally long with an average wait time of 2 hours. Beneficiaries are made to stand in line with no queue management or security.[45] Participants noted that one cannot leave the queue to find a toilet, to rest or go elsewhere because then they are not allowed back into the line (by other beneficiaries); they are instead forced to go to the back of the queue.[46] Participants stated that:

I collapsed one year at Pick n Pay because of my high blood pressure. I was lucky that I knew a lady in line that drew my money for me’[47]
‘There are long lines at the ATM. A long time is spent waiting for the taxi to fill up. My daughter has to go out and collect my money for me because I cannot go out on my own because of my health condition.’[48]
‘Ek voel so hulpeloos, nou vat my dogter meeste van my saake behanding’ (I feel so helpless, now my daughter takes care of most of my business)
‘I would feel better if there was security like nobody could attack you’
‘My grandchild has to collect my money now because town is too far for me to walk and the lines there are too long’

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The research team of Prof Laurence Piper and research assistants Sondre Bailey and Robyn Pasensie have been in regular contact with Participedia via Jesi Carson and Scott Fletcher to develop the parent case and this case, to get both ready for publication on the Participedia website. This marks a novel use of cases on the platform by documenting cases in advance of and during their implementation. This research is piloting a new way of cataloguing and presenting information for Participedia.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The key insight from the overall research project is that “the greatest cost of decommissioning is experienced on the bodies of rural, elderly grant recipients” in terms of costs, insecurity, and particularly indignities.[49] The time and distance for travelling to access their grants has gone up significantly for residents in Robertson since decommissioning. For instance, for queries or issues with their grants, elderly beneficiaries in Nkqubela must “embark on a 30-40 minute uphill walk” to meet with SASSA representatives.[50] The researchers note that observing grant recipients in Robertson was particularly eye-opening “given the congestion and queues, including in taxis.”[51]

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

See Also

Participatory Research on the Decommissioning of South African Social Services

River of Life

Body mapping

References

[1] 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.

[2] 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

[3] 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

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

[5] ‘Robertson’ 2019. South African History Online. 18 April 2019 https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/robertson

[6] ‘Robertson’ 2019. South African History Online. 18 April 2019 https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/robertson

[7] Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 2014. ‘Informal Settlements in South Africa: Langrug Community” Cape Town Project Institute. https://wp.wpi.edu/capetown/projects/p2014/wash-up-business/background-research/informal-settlements-in-south-africa/

[8] ‘Robertson’. 2011. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://www.citypopulation.de/php/southafrica-westerncape.php?cityid=169003001

[9][10][11] ‘Robertson’ 2019. South African History Online. 18 April 2019. https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/robertson

[12] ‘Nkqubela’ 2011. Census 2011. https://census2011.adrianfrith.com/place/169004

[13][14][15] Ntongana, T. and Furlong, A. 10 June 2017. ‘Robertson’s dumping ground for farm workers.’ GroundUp. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/robertsons-dumping-ground-farm-workers/

[16] 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

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

[18] ‘About the Black Sash’. 2017. Black Sash. https://www.blacksash.org.za/index.php/about-us/about-the-black-sash

[19] 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."

[20] Piper, L., Bailey, S., and Pasensie, R. 2019. ‘Like a blow to my body'

[21] ‘Robertson SP’ 2011. Census 2011. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://census2011.adrianfrith.com/place/169003005

[22] ‘Robertson’ 2019. South African History Online. 18 April 2019 https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/robertson

[23] ‘Langeberg: Local Municipality 169 from Census 2011. Census 2011. Accessed February 22, 2020. https://census2011.adrianfrith.com/place/169

[24][25][26][27][28] Piper, L., Bailey, S., and Pasensie, R. 2019. ‘Like a blow to my body'

[29]Moussa, Z. 2009. Tips for Trainers. Rivers of Life, PLA [formerly PLA Notes] 60 (Community based adaptation to climate change). IIED, London.https://pubs.iied.org/G02828/; Piper, L., Bailey, S., and Pasensie, R. 2019. ‘Like a blow to my body'

[30] Moussa, Z. 2009. Tips for Trainers. Rivers of Life, PLA [formerly PLA Notes] 60 (Community based adaptation to climate change). IIED, London.https://pubs.iied.org/G02828/

[31] Botha, C. 2017. ‘Using metaphoric body-mapping to encourage reflection on the developing identity of pre-service teachers’ South African Journal of Education [online]. vol.37, n.3 [cited 2019-02-11], pp.1-12.http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0256-01002017000300010

[32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51] 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.

External Links

Notes