Cabinet fails to address social grants payment crisis

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe faced tough questions during a briefing on Tuesday because the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) crisis was not mentioned in the post-Cabinet statement.

Radebe told journalists that the Sassa issue had been raised in Cabinet, but there had not been enough time discuss the details of the matter. He said the Cabinet would hold a meeting at a “special time” next week to discuss Sassa and grant payments “in all its complexities and details”.

Radebe could not provide details on when the meeting will happen or who will participate.

The increasing pressure to address the Sassa crisis comes as the April 1 deadline looms for social grants to be paid to 17-million beneficiaries. Sassa has not yet secured a mechanism to pay the grants, and it began negotiations with Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) – its current service provider – only on Wednesday.

Sassa’s contract with CPS was ruled in invalid and unlawful in the Constitutional Court, but the agency has said it is seeking a new contract with CPS because there is no viable alternative to pay grants on April 1. The current contract expires on March 31.

A mounting debacle

The chaos regarding grant payments has now reached boiling point after Sassa spent almost three years ignoring the Constitutional Court ruling.

Sassa needs an order from the ConCourt granting it permission for CPS to continue servicing Sassa.

Only on Tuesday did Sassa filed papers to the ConCourt requesting it to authorise its use of CPS. On the same day, however, Sassa drew up papers for a notice to withdraw that application.

In the midst of the confusion, Sassa has also placed its chief executive, Thokozani Magwaza, on sick leave for 12 days. He was absent from a meeting between Parliament’s committee on public accounts on Tuesday, resulting in Themba Godi, chairman on the committee, ending the because there was no one who could answer questions about the grant crisis.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was also notably absent from the meeting. Dlamini has not faced disciplinary proceedings despite the crisis at Sassa under her watch.

Just 30 days remain for Sassa and Dlamini to fix the mess and ensure grants are paid on April 1.

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