The Social Security Agency’s request for a six-month extension of its contract with Cash Paymasters Services (CPS) have left its critics fuming.
In 2014 the Constitutional Court ruled that the contract the agency signed with CPS in 2012 – which allowed the company to continue to distribute South Africa’s social grants to recipients – was illegal and invalid. In April 2017, the court suspended the order of invalidity until March 31 this year, to allow the social development department and Sassa time to find a new provider.
The South African Post Office was touted as a possible solution to the distribution crisis, but last week its chief executive Mark Barnes, accused the minister of being “non-responsive and causing delays”.
In papers dated February 6, CPS applied to the Constitutional Court for an interlocutory application to clarify, or to the change, the order granted by the court on March 17 last year.
Today it was reported that the social security agency had asked the Constitutional Court for an extension.
“This latest request is proof that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, is yet again attempting to frustrate the process of finding an alternative and legal service provider [to pay social grants],” said the DA’s spokesperson for social development, Lindy Wilson.
“CPS has been responsible for parasitic and illegal deductions which see some pensioners go home with as little as R100 of their grants every month. We cannot allow that our people are once again subjected to such unethical and immoral behaviour.”
The Social Security Agency’s spokesperson, Paseka Letsatsi, told News24 on Thursday that this was part of its “phase in, phase out” system to allow CPS to hand over to the South African Post Office.
“We don’t want to collapse the system. That is the only reason we are asking for this extension,” he said.
Inkatha Freedom Party member of Parliament, Mkhuleko Hlengwa tweeted that the request to the Constitutional Court to extend the illegal and invalid CPS contract came as no surprise.
“The writing has been on the wall from the word go. The South African Social Security Agency actively engineered this crisis, hellbent to protect corruption.”
Wilson pointed out that there was less than two months to go until the end of the “illegal CPS contract, and the poor and vulnerable are once again facing an anxious and uncertain future.
“The minister’s ineptitude and dodgy intentions have brought us yet another impending self-created social grants crisis. She has dragged her feet and frustrated the social security agency’s entire procurement process,” said Wilson.
The bungling of the social grant distribution system put the livelihoods of millions of vulnerable citizens in danger.
This compelled nongovernmental organisation the Black Sash to take her and the department to court, an episode that cost the state piles of cash in legal costs.
An inquiry, headed by former Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, was set up by the Constitutional Court to establish whether Dlamini should be held personally responsible for the debacle.
The inquiry is to resume on March 19 for closing arguments.
South Africans took to Twitter to vent their frustration at the request for an extension: