In 2018, the South African government instituted a social assistance payment and registration system that it would administer through a public entity: the South African Post Office (SAPO). The shift to SAPO from the six-year long private contract with Net1 was nearing completion by 2018, surfaced questions around the failures of privatisation and the challenges of state-run social services. A new wave of private involvement in public service provision was ushered in during the Covid-19 pandemic where once again public-private partnerships provided digital registration and identification platforms to tens of millions of people. Technologies in the social assistance system are often considered only as a tool to get grants to people. This project shows that technologies of grant administration and payment inscribe, reify and transform relationships. Through fieldwork with grant claimants at Post Offices and South African Social Assistance (SASSA) offices, this research shows how digital grant application and payment platforms and associated hardware (re)create relationships between people, objects, institutions, and ideologies.
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