Legal View

Dlamini, SASSA to answer to ConCourt

Minister Bathabile Dlamini and SASSA will submit documents answering to the future of social grants payments.
Minister Bathabile Dlamini and SASSA will submit documents answering to the future of social grants payments.

Amid the growing calls for Bathabile Dlamini to resign, the social development minister and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) have until 4pm today to answer to the highest court in the land with regards to the debacle around the future payment of social grants.

Last week, the chief justice of the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) Mogoeng Mogoeng instructed the minister and SASSA to submit responses with accompanying affidavits in relation to the agency's inability to pay grants and the decision to continue with the services of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

The ConCourt's request was motivated by the department and its agency's decision to enter into a new deal with the current paymaster, whose contract the court declared invalid in 2014.

CPS, a division of Net1 UEPS Technologies, currently distributes and administers payments to 17 million social grant beneficiaries, but that contract expires at the end of this month.

Following a two-year process to find a suitable distributor, the department and SASSA failed to select a payments master and have since then been scrambling to avert a potential social grants disaster on 1 April.

Dlamini has admitted to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) in Parliament that her department underestimated the work needed to be done to take over social grant payments.

Resignation ultimatum

As the social grants drama unfolds, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has been vocal about calling for the dismissal of the minister.

Yesterday, the Western Cape branch of the labour federation picketed outside Parliament over the issue.

Eyewitness News reports Cosatu has threatened to intensify protests against Dlamini.

Cosatu wants Dlamini to be fired, saying she is not fit for the job. The labour federation is calling for the minister's removal by 21 March, according to Eyewitness News.

Meanwhile, finance minister Pravin Gordhan and National Treasury officials will tomorrow appear before Scopa to provide further clarity and comment on the new contract with CPS.

It has been reported Gordhan is against the reappointment of CPS as the service provider for the distribution of social grants come 1 April.

Tomorrow's meeting with the committee will mark the minister and National Treasury's first public response with regards to the new deal SASSA and CPS have agreed upon.

Treasury previously issued a statement noting it was not part of negotiations with CPS.

More protests

Last Friday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) marched to the social development department offices in the City of Tshwane.

Marching under the theme "SaveOurGrants", DA supporters called 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.

Right2Know (R2K) issued a statement noting its decision to protest outside SASSA's head office in Tshwane today. R2K has also been vocal about the removal of Dlamini from her position as social development minister.

In a statement, the advocacy group says it will protest in solidarity with The Black Sash court case and to demand: no secrets, no lies.

SASSA must account for delays and its plans to ensure all grants are paid on time and fully - with no more deductions from external companies, it says.

R2K says it supports Black Sash in its effort for the ConCourt to urgently ensure a deal with CPS is one that will not disadvantage the country and grant beneficiaries for many months to come.

The case will be heard in court on 15 March.

Read time 3min 20sec
Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
IT in government editor

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba is the IT in government editor at ITWeb. She reports on tech initiatives, policies and digital transformation strategies in government, banking and education. She holds an honour's degree in journalism from Rhodes University. Behind that smile, she is plotting how best to get government officials to respond to her emails before deadline :)

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