Minister of Women in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini may have to pay the costs of litigation for her role in the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants payment mess.

The former social development minister suffered a two-frontal attack yesterday, almost simultaneously in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria and the Constitutional Court over the bungling of the Sassa contract that risked millions of vulnerable citizens not receiving their social grants as of April 1. The Concourt extended Sassa’s unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) for a further six months with strict conditions, but stopped short of declaring Dlamini personally liable for the crisis.

The Concourt ordered Dlamini and acting Sassa chief executive Pearl Bhengu to provide affidavits on why they should not be personally joined in the matter and why they should not be ordered to pay legal costs or a portion out of their own pockets.

The High Court in Pretoria, meanwhile, was scathing of Sassa for paying more than R316 million to CPS for the registration of social grant beneficiaries. It ordered CPS to pay back the money as the payment was unlawful and was “effected for ulterior purposes or motive”.

“As a result of Sassa’s unlawful conduct, the fiscus has been robbed of a substantial amount of money intended for the most vulnerable and poor people of our country. The fiscus is poorer as it did not receive fair value for what it paid,” said Judge Moroa Tsoka.

The judge said: “it is just and equitable that the payment of R316 447 361 made by Sassa to CPS, together with interest, be returned to the fiscus for the benefit of those for whom it was intended in the first place".

“This, in my view, is a just and equitable remedy that would effectively vindicate the fair process violated by the parties. The remedy would entrench the rule of law.”

The ruling came after Corruption Watch (CW) last month turned to the court for an order setting aside the decision by Sassa to pay R317m to CPS regarding the registration and payment of grant beneficiaries.

Sassa last month filed an urgent application to have the declaration of invalidity granted a year ago suspended to allow it to extend CPS’s unlawful multi-billion rand contract for another six months.

Dlamini did not inform the court about these work streams, which cost taxpayers R48m, and only came to the justices’ attention as a result of affidavits filed by former Sassa chief executive Thokozani Magwaza and her former special advisor Zane Dangor, who is also a former social development director-general. DA MP Bridget Masango told the Saturday Star that there was a need for a fully-fledged parliamentary inquiry into the social grants crisis.

Masango welcomed the court’s sanctioning of Bhengu for her misleading statements when she previously told the portfolio committee on social development that the agency had “plan B”.

CW’s executive director, David Lewis, said while they welcomed the judgment, they reiterate their call on the criminal justice authorities to investigate the relationship between CPS, Sassa and the social development ministry.

Black Sash national advocacy manager Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker said Bhengu must be probed whether they were negligent and acted in good faith in the period of the one-year extension.