No social grant payments unless deal struck by today

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini Picture: Business Times
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini
Picture: Business Times

There will be no social grant payments to more than 11 million South Africans on April 1 unless a deal is struck with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) by today.

That was the warning from CPS chief executive Serge Belamant late yesterday in papers filed at the Constitutional Court.

As the papers were filed‚ Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was speaking in parliament‚ promising MPs and the nation that there was no crisis.

Belamant’s claim came in an affidavit that was included in a flurry of court papers filed before a hearing due in the Constitutional Court today.

He said 12 business days were required to prepare for the payments.

“This effectively means that all negotiations and contract finalisation need to be completed by no later than March 15‚” he said in the affidavit.

The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has told the court that CPS is the only company that can ensure payments continue.

Its contract – declared illegal in 2014 by the court – is due to expire at the end of the month.

Today, the court is due to hear a case brought by the Black Sash aimed at clarifying what should happen with grant payments from next month.

Sassa has failed in its undertakings to implement an inhouse system or to find a new service provider in an open and competitive tender process.

There are growing fears 17 million grant payments to more than 11 million beneficiaries will not be made from next month.

Many beneficiaries receive more than one grant.

Belamant’s latest affidavit amplifies these concerns.

Attached to his affidavit was a letter Belamant had written to Sassa on Friday‚ warning that today was the latest day to finalise the CPS contract.

“It is imperative that Sassa understands the time frames required for the logistical planning, with specific reference to the cash cycle‚” he said.

But Centre for Applied Legal Services director Bonita Meyersfeld rubbished Belamant’s claims‚ saying it was an unacceptable negotiation tactic.

“This is exactly where CPS wants the government. They have them by the short and curlies,” she said.

She said CPS was in a position to pay grants and had a constitutional obligation to do so.

Meanwhile‚ in court papers asking to be admitted to the Black Sash case‚ the SA Post Office said it was capable of taking over the grant payments.

Belamant said in his affidavit that CPS would step aside if the Post Office was able to take over‚ but said the costs to the state could rise by up to R1.9-billion over two years.

The CPS affidavit was filed with the court only minutes after Dlamini defiantly accused opposition parties of manufacturing the crisis.

“From the outset‚ I would like to reiterate the assurance of the President of the Republic of South Africa‚ Mr Jacob Zuma, that there is no crisis at Sassa‚” Dlamini told MPs.

“All eligible social grant beneficiaries will receive their money on April 1 and beyond.”

She also reiterated that the Post Office was not prepared to take over grant payments‚ despite indications from the Post Office that it could play a role.

The IFP’s Liezl van der Merwe said Zuma and Speaker Baleka Mbete had played a part in creating the crisis as they had ignored calls for action and had allowed Dlamini to “duck and dive”.

Earlier yesterday‚ Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan appeared before parliament’s public accounts committee‚ saying he was confident a solution would be found.

He said only three days were needed to authorise payment.

“A combination of the political process and the judicial process within the next five‚ six days‚ hopefully will give us absolute certainty about the payment‚” he said.

Meanwhile‚ in a scathing affidavit submitted to the Constitutional Court on Monday and made available yesterday‚ Dlamini threw Sassa chief executive Thokozani Magwaza under the bus.

She accused Magwaza of ignoring instructions and attending meetings behind her back.

Dlamini said she had made it clear to Magwaza during a meeting on February 20 that she expected Sassa executives to act urgently.

“I understand that Mr Magwaza adjourned the meeting soon after I left,” she said.

“I know he did not heed my advice in that he did not take any urgent steps to redress the situation shortly after meeting.”

Dlamini also claims Magwaza had engagements with the Post Office without her knowledge, among other complaints.

Magwaza did not reply to phone and text messages seeking comment yesterday.– TMG Digital/The Times

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