The social grants payments crisis continues to deepen and yet the most obvious solution to saving 17 million poor and vulnerable citizens from sheer disaster come April 1 is being ignored by President Jacob Zuma.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s astoundingly inept handling of a situation of her own making, coupled with her incomprehensible doggedness to see Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) continue to handle the payments of grants no matter what, should quite frankly see her booted out of the job.
CPS’s contract to distribute the grants expires on March 31 but, despite having had years to remedy the situation after the Constitutional Court declared the contract unlawful, Dlamini’s department has failed to fix the mess.
So determined has she been to discount any other option other than CPS that she has not only thumbed her nose at parliament and at the highest court in South Africa, but at her own senior officials.
Her director-general, Zane Dangor, described by parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) as an honest and hard-working civil servant, quit at the weekend as a direct result of Dlamini’s management (we use the term loosely) of the crisis. Sassa chief executive Thokozani Magwaza also remains on sick leave because of related tensions.
Dlamini has proved herself an utter failure, someone who cannot be trusted to put millions of poor and vulnerable South Africans ahead of her own self-interest.
Zuma has more than enough cause to sack her with immediate effect.
But clearly it does not serve him, even at the risk of alienating millions of grant recipients (many of whom will certainly be ANC supporters), to remove one of his long-standing political allies.
Remember that Dlamini also heads the ANC Women’s League, which is fully backing Zuma’s anointed party president successor in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Even if Social Development has struck some sort of deal with CPS this will, crucially, still have to be approved by Treasury.
If there is one thing we know by now it’s that, regardless of the pressure, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is not a man to be manipulated by anyone. Neither is he likely to act, unlike some, in a manner that will see the constitution compromised.