‘Dodgy’ grant debits

Nothe ba Kota shows Vukani the card she was given by Net 1 Financial Services which has apparently replaced her South African Social Security card.

A fuming group of Khayelitsha mothers is accusing Net 1 Financial Services of continuously and illegally taking their social grant monies.

The Site B based- firm is accused of exploiting the pensioners, who owe it money, by invalidating their South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) cards and replacing them with its own cards. This means the pensioners can never use their Sassa cards for as long as they owe the company, in some instances after they had settled their debts.

According to some pensioners, the company offers loans of up to R650, repayable over six months. However, they have accused the company of failing to keep its loan agreement.

Frustrated residents said they took a R650 loan and agreed that a debit of R108 would be deducted monthly.

In a meeting with Vukani, residents alleged that Net 1 deducted monies beyond the stipulated six months. Others argued that they applied for loans, but never got the money. But they said they were shocked when they saw unknown deductions from their accounts by the company.

An angry Nothemba Kota said she took out a loan in 2015, but she is still paying it off. Ms Kota gets a grant for two children. She was in need of extra cash when she took out the loan.

She said she tried in vain to get clarity from the company, but had been sent from pillar to post.

Ms Kota said her Sassa card became ineffective after she took out the loan.

She said she tried countless times to change the company card but all her attempts had failed.

“Sometimes they would take the whole grant. And at times they would deduct R300 or less. I feel deeply hurt by their actions. I took out the loan because I needed to do something urgent and important for my children. My health has taken a massive knock. I want them to stop deducting my children’ s money,” she said.

Ms Kota said the last time she questioned the company they accused her of buying airtime and electricity, something she vehemently denied. She said she was constantly at loggerheads with her boyfriend who blamed her for using the money on alcohol.

Ms Kota said they wanted the institution to be investigated and closed.

A manager at the store, who refused to be named, denied the allegations levelled at the company. She said they were not deducting people’s monies.

Noluthando Myoli said she applied for a loan towards the end of last year from the institution but she never got it, however, there were deductions from her account.

Ms Myoli said the institution deducted various amounts, ranging between R50 and R60. She said when she enquired about the deductions the company never provided valid reasons about them. She said the company should be investigated and be closed.

A manager for the company’s Site B branch, who declined to give her name, denied any wrongdoing on the part of the company. She said they do issue loans but don’t deduct monies over the time stipulated by complainants.

Shivani Wahab, Sassa senior manager-communications and marketing in the Western Cape, said they were responsible for the administration and payment of social grants. However. she said where social grant beneficiaries entered into loan agreements with third parties, Sassa had no control over such arrangements.

In instances where beneficiaries have unknown deductions from their grants, she said they could contact any Sassa.

“The issue of money lending is a serious problem as social grant beneficiaries who enter into these loan arrangements put themselves at risk of exploitation,” said Ms Wahab. “Again, Sassa would like to reiterate to all social grant beneficiaries, to not disclose their personal details or card details to strangers as this can result in identity theft. Once a criminal syndicate has your personal details, they can commit fraud using your name.The only legitimate Sassa card is the branded card,” she said.

BLOB Vukani has tried since last week to get comment from Net Financial Services’ head office in Johannesburg but we have been sent from pillar to post. However, yesterday we managed to get an email address of the person who apparently deals with media enquiries. We’ve sent the questions but were told they would have to get into contact with the complainants to investigate. We will publish Net Financial Services’ comments when we receive it.