Confusion And Distress Around Contradictory Stories From Sassa and Treasury On The Social Grants Crisis

The social grants crisis is mounting and questions of accountability and the way forward have not been answered.
Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

Pressure is mounting around the looming social grants crisis and nobody is giving clear answers or taking the lead in finding solutions to the problems surrounding how payments will be made to the public.

Those in charge are saying contradictory things and this is causing heavy distress among the 17 million people in South Africa who are dependent on the social grants system.

On Wednesday, the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) withdrew its application to the Constitutional Court for an extension of a social grants distribution contract the court ruled invalid and "unconstitutional" in 2014.

This comes after Sassa appeared before the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday to account for its proposed extension to the arrangement with current service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), who are responsible for the grant payments to 17 million South Africans. That agreement ends on March 31.

Sassa's spokesperson, Paseka Letsatsi, said the withdrawal was due to missing information in papers submitted to the court. He could not disclose to The Huffington Post what exactly was missing, but said the case would we resubmitted at a date yet to be confirmed.

Letsatsi said he was confident that all social grant dependents would receive their payments on 1 April.

However, on Tuesday, Sassa admitted to Parliament that it did not have a firm plan about making payments going forward, but would probably set up a new contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to pay grants after March.

ANC member of the National Assembly, Sibongile Tsoleli, told City Press that she was "shocked" when Sassa told the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) it didn't know what it was going to do where it had been telling the assembly that it did have a plan.

The department of social development, which had intended to hold a press briefing on Wednesday, postponed until further notice. Letsatsi said that the minister would call a press briefing to clear up the confusion.

He said: "Currently what is causing anxiety and confusion is administrative issues". He told Talk Radio 702 that Sassa and CPS had issues with each other that they do not want to discuss in public.

Letsatsi said: "We have made a commitment that we will negotiate in good faith." He was confident that the two bodies would be able to reach an agreement.

"The negotiations between us and the current service provider are taking place to make sure that we have a very smooth phase in and phase out process... It is very important for us to give this particular process a chance to unfold," he added.

These statements have done little to placate the public after neither Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini or Sassa chief operating officer Thokozani Magwaza attended the meeting on Tuesday between Scopa and Sassa to give account of the crisis. Dlamini reportedly said that she did not need to attend the Scopa meeting, as she was not accountable to the committee.

Magwaza was reportedly off sick. Lesatsi confirmed this and dismissed rumours that Magwaza had been fired.

While this goes on, 17 million dependents on the social grant system are worried about how they are going to make ends meet.


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