Parliament – The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Thursday described Cabinet's deferral of talks on the impending crisis involving the payment of grants to next week as "an outragous abdication of responsibility", adding "it should leave every South African angry".
The DA was responding to an announcement by Presidency Minister Jeff Radebe that cabinet would receive a full briefing on the situation surrounding the uncertainty over whether grants would be paid on April 1 by "all teams" working on the situation, including the social development department and national treasury during a special meeting next week.
"For months [Social Development] Minister [Bathabile] Dlamini and SASSA [South African Social Security Agency] have been stalling on this issue and with just over three weeks to go, this crisis cannot be left without action from the Presidency and Cabinet for a moment longer," DA MP Bridget Masango said in a statement.
"We again urgently call on President Zuma to hand over the negotiations of the grants payment process to the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan. It is clear that Bathabile Dlamini cannot be trusted with the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans and should be relieved of her duties immediately."
On Wednesday, Sassa entered into formal negotiations with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to renew its contract to distribute grants though National Treasury has signalled it could not sanction the last minute deal. While there are fears that close to 18 million people who receive grants could be left in the lurch next month.
Radebe on Thursday said: “As a government we are deeply and totally committed that come the 1st of April, the 17 million plus beneficiaries must be given their social grants.”
In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Sassa contract with CPS was invalid. The court suspended its order until March 31 this year, letting the contract run its full term. Last month, Sassa told Parliament's social development portfolio committee it would seek an extension of the suspension order as it was not ready to take over the payment of grants.
But on Tuesday, Sassa officials informed Parliament’s watchdog public accounts that it would not seek the court’s permission to deviate from the order as it was not technically extending the contract with CPS but seeking a new agreement.