South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) does not have alternative plans if the court refuses to extend the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract by another six months, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.
"There will be chaos," Nazeer Cassim, the advocate for Sassa, argued before a full Bench.
Justice Johan Froneman responded: "So you come to us, basically giving this court no choice."
Cassim conceded that there were no plans in place.
Sassa wants the highest court in the country to extend the CPS contract by six months.
Roughly 2.8-million beneficiaries will not get their grant payments if the contract with CPS is not extended, the agency argued in court papers.
The contract expires on March 31, 2018.
Sassa is concerned about 29% of grant beneficiaries, mostly living in rural areas, who depend on cash deliveries of their social grants - a service that is currently provided by CPS.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng questioned why the agency only approached the court in February and not in December 2017, when they were aware that an extension would be needed.
Cassim responded that the agency "genuinely believed they had their act together". He added that the agency also needed the input of the National Treasury.
Newly-appointed Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu and acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu were among those who attended Tuesday's proceedings.
'This is sad'
Mogoeng pointed out that, after years of saying the contract with CPS was unlawful, the agency was still approaching the court for relief.
"This is sad. It is like we are being laughed at by Sassa. It is sad. We are just expressing our frustrations to your clients (Sassa)," he said.
Last Wednesday, Bhengu and Shabangu appeared in Parliament to update MPs on Sassa's and the department's state of readiness to migrate the nation's social grants scheme from CPS by April 1.
Sassa has less than a month in which to fully migrate core components of the grants scheme from CPS, as ordered by the Constitutional Court, to the South African Post Office, as agreed in December 2017.
Bhengu assured MPs that all payments starting from April, would come from Sassa's corporate account and not CPS's. This includes payments to the 5.7-million people who have Grindrod Bank cards.
"On April 1, everyone will be paid, whether CPS is here or not. The only problem may be at the [cash] pay points.
The Constitutional Court ruled last month that CPS may participate in future Sassa tender processes, as allowed for by the law.
CPS had argued it was not consistent to bar the company from bidding for all future tenders as a result of its current contract being declared invalid.