Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini on Friday said there was no “enmity” between herself and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over reports that she had rejected his suggestion to ask banks and the Post Office to dispense grant payments.
The Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract ends on March 31, which has prompted fear of a looming crisis regarding the payments of social grants and pensions.
However, the social development department said: “Dlamini wishes to assure all social grant beneficiaries that there will be no disruption to the payment of their grants and that their social grants will be paid on April 1, 2017”.
In a statement the department said it “noted media reports purporting that there is enmity between herself [Dlamini] and the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan”.
The department added: “The minister wishes to put on record that such allegations are malicious and are intended to wedge a division between herself and the minister who is a colleague in a collective cabinet led by the ANC, which deployed both of them to serve the people of South Africa”.
The statement said the minister rebuts reports that she rejected Gordhan’s option.
“The minister wishes to categorically state, by its nature, presentation of various options as cited by National Treasury in a statement recently afford her an opportunity to choose one. This does not mean the rejection of others,” said the department in the statement attributed to spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, and distributed by Government Communications.
“All correspondence between the two executives were part of the process of seeking solutions and therefore expressing views on the pros and cons to options presented to both principals by a joint committee that was established inclusive of National Treasury, SARB and DSD.
“Therefore, the options are an outcome of a collective process and options are no longer viewed as individual options. There is therefore no Dlamini option or Gordhan option.”
The department said the task team acknowledged that all options had pros and cons.
“It is the responsibility of Minister Dlamini to decide which option will ensure that social grant beneficiaries receive their social grant on April 1, 2017 without interruptions.
“This is in the context that the social grants are a Constitutional right for South Africans and the Department of Social Development through SASSA has a constitutional mandate to administer and pay social grants even on April 1, 2017.”
The department said Dlamini has noted the “malicious and deliberate attempts to mislead South Africans” about the legal opinion given by Wim Trengrove SC and his role within the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
Trengrove was commissioned by the work-stream on Legal and Regulatory as appointed by the minister. His opinion was sought upon realising that certain deliverables and time frames set to be achieved towards taking over the social grant payment function may not be achieved.
His opinion was sought on three possibilites that included:
* Whether SASSA will be in contempt if it does not take over the payment of social grants when the current agreement with CPS expires on March 31, 2017 pending SASSA taking over in full the social grant payment functions.
* Whether SASSA can approach the Constitutional Court (considering the fact that the Court had discharged its supervisory jurisdiction over the matter) with a view to enable the lawful continuation of the agreement with CPS.
* Whether SASSA is in anyway obliged to approach the Constitutional Court and lastly; How to approach negotiations and conclusions of an agreement with CPS for services after the 31 March 2017 in a lawful manner.
“Therefore, the comprehensive opinion by Win Tengrove SC was part of the minister’s attempt to make SASSA a better organisation. It was one of three legal opinions sought, given the complex legal issues associated with a contract deemed invalid by the country’s highest court,” explained the department.
The complexity is exacerbated by the fact that potential legal landmines could result in delays caused by vexatious litigation that may serve to rob the poor from access to their constitutional entitlements.
“Given this, the minister is well aware of the fact that both the National Treasury and the South African Reserve Bank as a regulator are key partners in safely transferring funds to millions of people every month,” said the department.
“The Minister of Social Development, therefore, would not under any circumstances wish to see a weakened Minister of Finance and a weakened Treasury.
“We know that this feeling is mutual; and this was demonstrated by the collaboration of the two Departments, SASSA and the SARB’S most senior officials on strategies to ensure that we are able pay grants on the 1 April 2017 and beyond.”
Gordhan’s advice on the matter includes an option in which banks would take over the payment of grants to beneficiaries who already hold bank accounts. Dlamini is believed to oppose this.
The ANC Women’s League, which is led by Dlamini, has issued a strongly worded statement rejecting the possibility of letting banks take a role in the payment of grants. It called commercial banks untrustworthy and greedy.
“The ANCWL supporters and members will not support any proposal to outsource payments of SASSA grants to any of the major commercial banks in SA. Support to such plan will be a conscious sabotage to the radical socio-economic transformation agenda.”