Johannesburg – Freedom Under Law (FUL) on Friday welcomed the ruling by the Constitutional Court in the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) matter to resolve uncertainty about the payment of welfare grants from 1 April.
The Constitutional Court made orders in line with the relief sought by FUL that the extension of the contract between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and Sassa be subject to the condition that CPS receive no more in payment for its services than it does under the existing invalid contract which ends on March 31.
FUL was granted leave to intervene in the matter between non-governmental organisation, the Black Sash Trust, and the Minister of Social Development for for direct access of the court to resume its supervisory role on Sassa and the payment of grants.
The court ordered that there be strict independent supervision of the contract going forward and of the planning by Sassa to ensure payment of social grants after the 12-month extension period. The court also ordered that the contract be extended only for a duration of 12 months so as to allow for a competitive bidding process for the award of a lawful contract for social grant payments.
Nicole Fritz, executive officer for Freedom Under Law, said they noted the serious concern registered by the court at the extent to which the Minister of Social Development and Sassa had placed the right to social assistance in jeopardy, reflected in the court's requirement that the Minister show cause why she should not personally pay the costs of the application.
"In handing down its judgement and in crafting so detailed an order, subjecting the ongoing process of social grant payment to rigorous oversight and in so doing effectively quelling the anxiety that millions of grant recipients must have felt, the Constitutional Court has again shown us today why it is rightly to be regarded as the "upper guardian" of our Constitution," Fritz said.
The court said the executive had failed in its constitutional duty, and ordered that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has until March 31 to file an affidavit explaining to the court as to why she should not be held personally liable for the cost of the case.
The court also placed the Sassa back under its supervision, some 18 months after releasing it from oversight.
The agency will have to report to the court every three months on its progress in developing the capacity to take over grant payment.