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No social grant beneficiary will be unpaid, says Dlamini

Politics
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.

During a heated media briefing in Pretoria, in which she walked out, Dlamini said: "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."

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Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini addresses a press conference in Pretoria on the social grants payment fiasco. Photo: ANA

"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.

DA shocked by Dlamini's failure to resolve Sassa crisis


Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday that it would continue with its application in the Constitutional Court seeking accountability for those who failed to ensure Sassa's readiness to take over the distribution of grants.

The “disgraceful contempt” shown by Dlamini towards 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at Sunday's media conference deserved condemnation in the strongest terms possible, DA spokeswoman Bridget Masango said.

The DA was both shocked and angered by Dlamini’s failure to table a clear plan to resolve the crisis. If anything, her “unwillingness to provide clear answers, determination to blame the media, and refusal to explain” the resignation on Friday of her director general Zane Dangor provided the clearest indication yet as to why “we are in this mess today”, Masango said.

“Indeed, Dlamini doesn’t care about the poor or all those South Africans, young and old, who rely on a social grant to survive. She is in this job just to feed at the trough – not to make a difference.”

Zuma should also be held accountable for the growing crisis. He had remained silent until the last possible minute and failed to fire Dlamini – the bare minimum he could do – to show that he was equally concerned about grant recipients, Masamgo said.

“Jacob Zuma rewards failure so long as it means he remains in power. The DA will not let the ANC get away with taking grants away from our poor and vulnerable. We are ready to do whatever we can to ensure that every person who needs a grant gets a grant come 1st April 2017.

“We will therefore continue with our application in the Constitutional Court seeking accountability for those who have failed to ensure Sassa’s readiness to take over the distribution of grants and who have put the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at risk.

“As a part of our application we have sought a declaratory order from the court confirming that the minister of social development, the CEO of the Sassa, and the Sassa violated their duties in terms of sections 165(4) and (5) and section 195 of the Constitution,” Masango said.

The DA was further seeking a declaration that Dlamini had violated her oath of office in failing to perform the functions of her office with honour, dignity, and to the best of her ability.

“Our preparations for our mass march this week Friday, 10 March 2017, are also continuing. We are ready to send a clear message to minister Dlamini that her disdain for the poor will not be left unanswered. Dlamini must go and go now. We will make this clear on Friday,” Masango said.

Dlamini misses opportunity to clarify Sassa debacle, says Outa

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) also slammed Dlamini's media conference saying she had missed an opportunity to clarify the debacle.

“It is virtually five minutes to midnight and the minister is still playing mind games on the certainty of Sassa’s social grants debacle,” Outa portfolio director Ben Theron said.

“South Africa is a Constitutional democracy and we expect our political leaders to respect and act within the confines of the highest law of the land, with the minister of social development positioned by the president in order to serve the people of South Africa,” he said.

“We expected the minister to share the status of negotiations, the costs and the process to transfer responsibility from the contractor to the in-house disbursement management team. Instead, double-speak and denial was the order of the day...

“After 60 minutes of obfuscation, misdirection, and an attempt to paint a picture of bliss, the outcome of her briefing was summed up into one sentence: ‘We will continue to pay the grants on 1st April’,” Theron said.

Dlamini’s media briefing appeared to be taking an opportunity to stave off the trouble she faced when having to appear before Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), who had to resort to issuing a summons to Dlamini to appear before the committee on Tuesday.

Additionally, she had to appear before the Constitutional Court on March 15 to explain why the court’s ruling of a few years ago was not implemented despite ample time to do so.

“Outa believes that South Africa is facing its biggest crisis since democracy and the response from those in charge has been weak, contemptuous, and dismissive, leaving society to question whether this grave fiasco is due to gross incompetence or due to planned sabotage in an attempt to achieve another objective?” Theron said.

CAPE TOWN, March 5 (ANA) – The Democratic Alliance will continue with its application in the Constitutional Court seeking accountability for those who failed to ensure the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) readiness to take over the distribution of grants at the end of this month when the current invalid Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract comes to an end, the party said on Sunday.

This despite Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini telling journalists in Pretoria on Sunday morning that mechanisms were in place to ensure that all social grant beneficiaries were paid on time after the CPS contract ended.

The “disgraceful contempt” shown by Dlamini towards 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at the media conference on Sunday morning deserved condemnation in the strongest terms possible, DA spokeswoman Bridget Masango said.

The DA was both shocked and angered by Dlamini’s failure to table a clear plan to resolve the crisis. If anything, her “unwillingness to provide clear answers, determination to blame the media, and refusal to explain” the resignation on Friday of her director general Zane Dangor provided the clearest indication yet as to why “we are in this mess today”, Masango said.

“Indeed, Dlamini doesn’t care about the poor or all those South Africans, young and old, who rely on a social grant to survive. She is in this job just to feed at the trough – not to make a difference.”

President Jacob Zuma should also be held accountable for the growing crisis. He had remained silent until the last possible minute and failed to fire Dlamini – the bare minimum he could do – to show that he was equally concerned about grant recipients.

“Jacob Zuma rewards failure so long as it means he remains in power. The DA will not let the ANC get away with taking grants away from our poor and vulnerable. We are ready to do whatever we can to ensure that every person who needs a grant gets a grant come 1st April 2017.

“We will therefore continue with our application in the Constitutional Court seeking accountability for those who have failed to ensure Sassa’s readiness to take over the distribution of grants and who have put the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at risk.

“As a part of our application we have sought a declaratory order from the court confirming that the minister of social development, the CEO of the Sassa, and the Sassa violated their duties in terms of sections 165(4) and (5) and section 195 of the Constitution,” Masango said.

The DA was further seeking a declaration that Dlamini had violated her oath of office in failing to perform the functions of her office with honour, dignity, and to the best of her ability.

“Our preparations for our mass march this week Friday, 10 March 2017, are also continuing. We are ready to send a clear message to minister Dlamini that her disdain for the poor will not be left unanswered. Dlamini must go and go now. We will make this clear on Friday,” Masango said.

At the media conference earlier, Dlamini said CPS would continue to pay out social grants even after its contract expired at the end of the month.

But the social development department was quick to say “no deal” had yet been signed with CPS. Discussions with the service provider were ongoing.

Dlamini said the plan was to have a transition period at the end of which Sassa would take over the responsibility of paying out social grants. She said the South African Post Office would also be involved.

In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that Sassa’s contract with CPS was invalid because the tender process was flawed.
– African News Agency (ANA)

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