Despite the dispute that rocked the social grants distribution, South Africa’s Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is fairly confident that beneficiaries of the social grants will be duly paid in April.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) is scrambling to ensure that as many as 17 million people continue to receive their money, despite concerns that retaining the existing service provider is both unlawful and costly.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) had declared Sassa’s contract with CPS invalid after it emerged that irregular tendering processes were followed in the awarding of the tender.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, where he went to give his own side of the ongoing crisis, the embattled minister his office is trying to be careful not to preempt the court in any way, assuring his listeners that beneficiaries will be paid.
“I am fairly confident grants will be paid,” Gordhan told parliament’s public accounts committee.
This is the third successive meeting that Scopa is holding to discuss Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services. Gordhan was exclusively invited by Scopa chairperson Themba Godi to clarify certain issues.
Gordhan’s briefing followed repeated assurances by Minister Bathabile Dlamini that grants would be paid. Dlamini, however, has been less forthcoming about ways to pay beneficiaries since the court nullified her department’s contract with CPS.
However, Gordhan was able to come up with five ways beneficiaries can be paid without using CPS. These are:
- Grindrod Bank, which has been used for the payment of grants and which already has an account for each of the recipients.
- The South African Post Office, which has indicated its willingness and ability to deliver grants.
- All banks that comply with Sassa’s requirements can pay out the money. About 60% of beneficiaries are signed up.
- Asking all beneficiaries with bank accounts to come forward and have cash payments done to them through the banks.
- Paying beneficiaries into their bank accounts or an institution where the beneficiary resides (subject to authorisation by beneficiary).
The social grant debacle has attracted calls from various quarters in the country for minister Bathabile Dlamini to quickly step down with her team.
The clarion call was first made by the Corruption Watch, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
Corruption Watch described the SASSA internal crisis as the most serious scandal to emerge in democratic South Africa.
Cosatu insisted that Dlamini’s head and that of senior leaders at the department must roll because they failed to act decisively with regards to irregular expenditure and tender processes.
In a statement also, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa said it will be ideal for Dlamini to be fired.
The Democratic Alliance also called for Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to be fired and for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to take the reins in the social grants crisis.
The party asserted that it doesn’t trust Dlamini with the livelihoods of 17 million South Africans. It equally called on President Jacob Zuma to hand over the negotiations of the grants payment process to Gordhan.
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane said the social grant debacle is enough reason for the minister to resign or to be sacked.