Sergeant no more: Belamant retires from Net1 after Sassa grants fiasco

Serge Belamant has stepped down as Net1's chief executive. (Sunday Times)

Serge Belamant has stepped down as Net1's chief executive. (Sunday Times)

The man who ardently defended Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), the company responsible for delivering social grants in South Africa, against any wrongdoing has opted for early retirement.

Net1, the parent company of CPS, announced on Wednesday that Serge Belamant, its now former director and chief executive, has retired early. In a statement, which failed to mention the grants crisis in South Africa earlier this year, Net1 said Belamant retired following the “views expressed” by shareholders in the company.

Belamant’s leave of the company was also to “facilitate” changes in the company’s operating and management structures, the statement said. The company praised Belamant for leaving it “well-positioned to grow its international footprint”.

Although Belamant will continue to provide consulting services to Net1, his retirement has come as an abrupt surprise. In its announcement, Net1 says Belamant was due to leave only in 2018 at the age of 65.

The company has faced criticism in South Africa following months of confusion as to how grants would be delivered to beneficiaries.

CPS’s contract with the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) expired on March 31 this year, but in a landmark judgment the Constitutional Court extended the contract because there is no other viable method to deliver grants in the short period Sassa had left itself to develop a new payment delivery system.

The Constitutional Court had earlier found that CPS’s contract with Sassa was invalid because of a failure to follow correct tender processes.

The Black Sash, who led the case against CPS at the Constitutional Court earlier this year, has lauded this latest announcement from Net1 as a commitment to moral business conduct.

“The Black Sash is pleased that the Net 1 shareholders are finally holding the CEO of Net 1 to account. Serge Belamant’s retirement by the end of May 2017 is a clear signal of their intention to clean up unethical business practises. It indicates a move to defend the human right to social security by ensuring that grants are paid in full without deductions,” said Black Sash director Lynette Maart.

Throughout the debacle earlier this year on how grants would be delivered, Belamant defended CPS, saying the company was above board. The Constitutional Court, however, heard that money was being deducted from beneficiaries’ grants via the company and that the company shared personal data from beneficiaries to other companies in the Net1 group who would then advertise products to beneficiaries.

ANC MP Pravin Gordhan has criticised Belamant as being “extremely arrogant” and “disrespectful to government”, while Allan Gray, a prominent shareholder in the company, has launched an investigation to probe the company’s integrity.

Herman Kotze, Net1’s chief financial officer, will become acting chief executive when Belamant’s retirement comes in to effect at the end of May. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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