Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini addresses a press conference in Pretoria on the social grants payment fiasco. Photo: ANA
Pretoria – Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini on Sunday vowed that mechanisms are in place to ensure that all social grant beneficiaries are paid on time, particularly when her department's current contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) lapses at the end of this month.
"On April 1, Sassa [South African Social Security Agency] begins a new era in continued development. As has been the case in the past no one will go unpaid. We are focused on our mandate to deliver social assistance to the country's most vulnerable," Dlamini told a media briefing in Pretoria.
"We will work with all key stakeholders and with the legal and regulatory frameworks that govern our work and actions. We cannot afford to be distracted on our focus to be able to live [up] to this promise to our grant beneficiaries to pay the right social grant to the right person at the right place and on time."
She said since its establishment in 2006, Sassa had only been administering the 17 million social grants through the services of third parties. "Through the decade of Sassa's existence we have gone through numerous transitions starting from the establishment of the organisation, the consolidation and standardisation of the payment systems from the fragmented provincial systems, the introduction of a new payment service provider, plus re-registration where we took over from more than five payment providers to one integrated grant payment system," said Dlamini.
"We will continue paying social grants beyond March 31, when the contract with the current service provider comes to an end. This is, and has been, our singular focus and we remain committed to this vision. In South Africa social assistance is a constitutional right and we dare not fail in delivering this statutory obligation."
She said her department and Sassa had "a R140-billion social assistance muscle which goes directly to beneficiaries". Dlamini said moving on, Sassa would have its own payment model to distribute the grants.
"The ultimate goal is that Sassa should provide an integrated grant administration and payment process. This entails Sassa acquiring its own payment card which can operate in an open and closed system underpinned by the use of [a] biometric authentication system," said Dlamini.
A full rollout of this Sassa payment plan was scheduled for April 2019. Dlamini said she has been "engaging" Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on the social grants debacle which has sparked anxiety among the millions of vulnerable South Africans who rely on the state allowance.
On Saturday, President Jacob Zuma met Dlamini and Gordhan where he was appraised on government's readiness to pay out the grants from April 1. "The president is of the view that the matters are solvable. He has directed the two ministers to mandate their technical teams to work on the outstanding issues in order to ensure that social grant beneficiaries receive their grants on the 1st of April," the presidency said in a statement after the meeting.
"The ministers will keep the president briefed on progress. They assured the president that everything possible will be done to find [a] solution," it said.