The Gupta family lawyer Gert van der Merwe has hit back at former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor for alleging that the social grant crisis was designed by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini so that the payment contract could be handed to a Gupta-owned company “at the 11th hour”.
The prominent whistleblower recently wrote on Facebook that South Africa’s social grants system is destined to end up in the hands of the Gupta family if urgent intervention is not taken.
The state capture whistleblower claimed 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.”
On Monday, Mentor told reporters that she stands by her statement, although she refused to reveal her sources.
In a counter-statement released by the family, their lawyer Gert van der Merwe advised the family to urgently take legal actions against Mentor for the claims.
He described Mentor’s post as a completely baseless and vexatious effort to defame the Gupta family, adding that he’s considering launching a court application to interdict Mentor from posting further claims if she could not produce evidence.
“She was the instigator in three of four witnesses in the State of Capture report, and I have read what she said and read her evidence – it’s completely baseless.
It’s obvious she has a vendetta against the [Gupta] family. My advice to my client is to have a summons issued against her, for the defamation that she so intentionally tried to spread as far and wide as possible,” Van de Merwe said.
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.
On the Sassa crisis, Minister Bathabile has listed options available to her department and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to deal with the grant saga.
Addressing members of Parliament (MPs) of Scopa on Tuesday, Dlamini again assured the public grants will be paid. She said her department can change the service provider if need be.
In addition, she assured the MPs that there’s a five-year plan for turning around the agency and that the Post Office will be involved in the future payment of grants.
President Jacob Zuma has also reassured South Africans that social grants will be paid on April 1. The president told reporters there was no crisis and cautioned ministers against engaging in public spats.