Social Grant Crisis: Prominent whistleblower and former African National Congress (ANC) member of Parliament (MP) Vytjie Mentor alleges that South Africa’s social grants system is destined to end up in the hands of the Gupta family if urgent intervention is not carried out.
The state capture whistleblower wrote on Facebook that she was reliably informed that “a Gupta family Company is going to be appointed on the 11th hour to distribute grant and that they will do the biometrics cards too.”
If her claims are anything to go by, then the Guptas will have to pay 17 million grants to beneficiaries. However, another challenge will be ascertaining which of their companies would be doing the payment, knowing that they have interests in several business sectors, including IT.
Recall that Mentor was amongst the first whistleblowers who revealed how the Guptas influenced ministerial appointment in the Zuma-led government.
The South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pays out around 140 billion Rand ($10.7 billion) a year in grants to vulnerable people including pensioners, unemployed mothers and the disabled.
The payment has for years been outsourced to a private company Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), whose contract expires at the end of March.
CPS is a subsidiary of US-based Net1 UEPS Technologies. In 2014, the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruled that CPS contract was invalid after it emerged irregular tendering processes were followed in the awarding of the tender. The court requested the social development department to pick a new company that will distribute the grants.
Since last week, fears have mounted that the government might not be able to pay the monthly grants from April after it failed to announce alternative arrangements.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said in a statement that it will take minister Bathabile Dlamini to court for placing “the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at risk” over her “failure to table a clear plan to resolve this crisis.”
The party also requested the constitutional court to grant it permission to become a second applicant in the Sassa debacle matter.
Human rights group Black Sash was the first to lodge a complaint with the court. In its application, Black Sash asked the court to compel both Sassa and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini to ensure that the rights of beneficiaries would be protected when the agency entered into a new contract.
On Sunday, March 5, during a media conference, Bathabile told the country that beneficiaries of the social grant will be paid on April 1.
The minister, who appeared to be ignorant of the looming disaster that could affect the livelihood of over 17 million people at risk insisted that it is the media that has been misleading the public over Sassa payments.
“The Department of Social Development and SASSA would like to reassure Social grant beneficiaries that they WILL get their social grants on April 1, 2017.”
When pressed for comments about the resignation of Social Development director-general Zane Dangor, she fired back at ENCA journalist Karyn Maughan.
She said: “Don’t come here with your preconceived ideas. If I did not stand up, you were going to say I’m a lame duck. Now that I’ve stood up because things were not moving, I’m now flouting the Constitution.”
Dangor told reporters that he tendered his resignation letter on Friday. He said there was a breakdown in the relationship between himself and minister Bathabile over disagreements on Sassa payment.
Dangor was appointed in November 2016 after his predecessor left the department.
On Saturday, the Presidency announced that President Jacob Zuma held a meeting with Dlamini and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and was “of the view that the matters are solvable”.
Meanwhile, African National Congress (ANC) structures have divided amid calls for Dlamini to immediately resign.
Two alliance partners of the ANC, Congress of South African Unions and the South African Communist Party, were the first to call for Dlamini’s head.
But the ANC Women’s League and the MKMVA came out in her defence, insisting she is best and is capable of handling the mess.