As calls for the head of Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini grow louder‚ the South African Human Rights Commission called on Friday for an urgent top-level meeting over the lack of clarity on the payment of social grants after March 31.
Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane has called for Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to resign immediately‚ joining Cosatu‚ which said on Thursday the minister should quit.
Adding to the pressure‚ the DA has applied for permission for a march to the Department of Social Development in Tshwane on Friday‚ March 10.
In its call for a meeting with the minister and Thokozani Magwaza‚ CEO of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa)‚ the human rights commission said it had been closely monitoring the progress in relation to the payment of grants.
The commission said it had noted “the troubling reports that social grants may not be paid as from April 2017 and is deeply concerned by the devastating impact the potential non-payment of social grants could have on millions of vulnerable households for whom grants represent the sole form of regular income”.
“More than half of all households in SA benefit from social assistance‚ and for 22% of these households‚ social grants are their main source of income. As such‚ social assistance provides a safety net for some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
Archbishop Ndungane said if social grants were not paid after April 1‚ the consequences for the poorest of the poor in South Africa would be nothing short of catastrophic.
He said the disorganisation and lack of clarity on the part of both the department and the Sassa was a disgrace.
“Minister Dlamini has shown herself to be totally inept and should resign immediately‚ failing which the president should fire her.
“The president himself should also take responsibility for not managing this situation properly and allowing this fiasco to happen under his watch‚” the archbishop said.
Ndungane questioned whether South Africa’s political leadership retained any semblance of empathy the poor‚ adding that he wondered just how much the leadership understood of their situations.
“Not getting one’s social grant is not simply an inconvenience; it’s a calamity. Many of these people have no other income on which to depend.”
Ndungane said the ANC-led government had lost touch with ordinary people.
“They have forgotten the poor in the dusty plains of the Northern Cape who eke out a living. They have forgotten the poverty-stricken in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal‚ where old people hobble along to stand in long queues to receive a social grant that‚ in any event‚ most people would struggle to survive on.”
Ndungane said government had forgotten the mentally handicapped‚ the physically disabled and the non-government organisations which looked after them and depended on the grants for their survival. He accused government of forgetting the child-headed households who laboured under the most difficult of situations.
Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said: “The minister and her team in the department need to take political responsibility for this crisis by resigning – or they must be dismissed.”
Sassa had failed to deal decisively with the crisis which threatened the livelihoods of 17-million grant beneficiaries‚ he said.