File picture: David Ritchie

Johannesburg - The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has assured Parliament that the payment of social grants will continue as usual after April 1.

The agency plans to approach the Constitutional Court next week to seek an order extending the invalid and unlawful contract with service provider, Cash Paymaster Services.

"One thing for sure is that come April 1, we will be paying as usual. How we are to pay? That is what we have agreed with National Treasury and South African Reserve Bank," said Sassa chief executive officer Thokozani Magwaza.

Magwaza made the statements when Sassa briefed the social development portfolio committee on their readiness to take over the social grants scheme in order to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling that it take over the distribution of the payment of social grants.

Raphaaahle Mamokgopa, executive manager for strategy and business development, said once the court approved the extension of the contract, Sassa would approach the National treasury to request a deviation from supply chain management processes to allow the CPS contract to continue for another year.

While ANC-aligned committee members welcomed the progress report, the opposition were tore into Sassa with some insisting they were not ready for the April 1 deadline.

The IFP's Liezl van der Merwe said Sassa was in a predicament and it had the only option to extend the contract.

"This is no state of readiness," Van der Merwe said.

DA's Bridgete Masango said Sassa had been given ample time to put processes in place since the ConCourt ruling more than three years ago, but it did not act as expected.

She said the delays by Sassa were aimed at manufacturing an emergency so the CPS contract could be renewed.

"What if Cash Paymaster does not agree"? she asked.

Magwaza said contrary to what opposition MPs had suggested, there was no crisis.

He said a legal team has been hired to make the request to the court and an application would be done soon.

Magwaza also said CPS had been engaged on extending the contract and he did not see the service provider not playing ball.

Earlier the meeting got off to a rocky start when the committee was informed that Minister Bathabile Dlamini was not attending because she was at a cabinet lekgotla.

The DA's Evelyn Wilson said Dlamini has again snubbed the committee meeting when "there is a matter of national importance that borders on a disaster".

"It is a damn disgrace," Wilson said.

Van der Merwe said Dlamini's apology should be rejected and accused her of showing no leadership on the readiness for payment of social grants by April 1.

But, ANC MPs came to Dlamini's defence with committee chairperson Zoleka Capa saying it was a known fact that Wednesdays were cabinet days.

"There was nothing that said the minister should come. We said this is the day for the department to present state of readiness," Capa said.

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