Ramaphosa sidesteps calls for Dlamini's resignation

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Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa stuck to the same tune when it came to discussing minister Bathabile Dlamini's questionable handling of the potential social services disaster that threatens to affect 17 million beneficiaries.

With growing calls for Dlamini to resign, government has remained mum on the consequences the minister should face, with president Jacob Zuma going as far as instructing Cabinet ministers not to speak on the matter.

The president threw his weight behind Dlamini's ability to ensure beneficiaries will be paid on 1 April, with both Ramaphosa and the minister insisting all will be fine come next month's payment cycle.

Briefing members of the National Assembly on critical national issues yesterday, Ramaphosa fielded oral questions in relation to the social grants saga, but would not be drawn in to discuss Dlamini's fate or her role in the social grants crisis.

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) is dealing with the matter as it did previously, and is now also dealing with it effectively, he said.

The deputy president stated: "The minister [Dlamini] or the ministry has approached the court, and the Constitutional Court, this very high court, in fact, the highest court in our land, is going to deliberate on this matter as they did in the past and they are going to make a ruling.

"Given the timeframe that we have to the end of the month, I am absolutely certain the court is going to pull out all stops and deal with this matter with the level of urgency that it requires. Let us allow the institution that has been put in place to deal with this matter; at the same time let us allow the department to deal with this matter.

"This is a matter of enormous proportions where many of our people are concerned, but the matter is being dealt with and I'm absolutely certain a solution is going to be found."

Legal accountability

In light of the unfolding social grants debacle, chief justice of the ConCourt Mogoeng Mogoeng this week issued a directive to the minister, her department and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) requesting answers on the agreement reached with the current payments master, among other issues.

This week, Serge Belamant, chairman and CEO of Net1 UEPS Technologies, of which current social grants distributor Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) is a subsidiary, said his company has locked in a new payments contract with the social development department and SASSA.

Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini.
Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Mogoeng has on behalf of the court given the minister and SASSA until 4pm on Monday, 13 March, to submit responses to his directives with accompanying affidavits.

In response to the ConCourt's instructions, the Department of Social Development and SASSA issued a statement saying they welcome all the decisions made by the court.

One of the requests made by the ConCourt is for more information on the supplementary report from SASSA and the department regarding the institutionalisation of the payment of social grants, which the department says it welcomes.

"Minister Bathabile Dlamini has instructed the department and SASSA to work around the clock to provide the necessary information required by the Constitutional Court. The department and SASSA are committed to providing the public with further updates on progress in this regard."

The statement adds the minister wishes to reassure all grant beneficiaries that they will receive their social grant money on 1 April.

Take to the streets

On the issue of The Black Sash Trust seeking legal action against SASSA in an attempt to protect social grants, the department and its agency do not intend to oppose the veteran human rights organisation.

Through representation by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Black Sash has launched an application to the ConCourt to ensure social grant beneficiaries are not exploited.

The human rights group is asking the court to compel Dlamini and SASSA to take necessary measures to ensure the social grants system and its beneficiaries are protected when the CPS contract comes to an end on 31 March.

The Black Sash seeks to essentially protect the rights of the social grant beneficiaries. These relate to the protection of personal data of social grants beneficiaries as well as illegal deductions, reads the department's statement.

"The department has always contended the Constitutional Court is best placed to deal with the matter at hand because social assistance in SA is a human right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic."

Meanwhile, today opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) will march to the social development department offices in the City of Tshwane.

Marching under the theme "SaveOurGrants", DA supporters are calling for the minister to be removed from office.

According to the opposition party, it is ready to do whatever it can to ensure every single person who needs a grant gets one come 1 April.

"The DA believes social grants protect our people from poverty. This is why we are fighting to hold the African National Congress to account and make sure the necessary contracts are put in place in time, so that every South African can get the social grant they need to survive."

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