Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Social Development Bridget Masango told Polity on Wednesday that the buck stops with Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu following a recent delay in South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grant payments, which saw scores of beneficiaries unable to access their money, owing to a so-called system glitch at Postbank.
According to Masango, some recipients have still not been paid and she said this was a violation of human rights.
She claimed that recent research showed that, on average, each older person who received a grant of R2 080 was looking after about four people in their respective families.
In an exclusive interview with Polity, Masango said that, "as members of Parliament we are holding the executive to account and in this case that would be Minister Zulu. She cannot shift the blame to anyone else because the beneficiaries applied to the Department of Social Development through Sassa. The blame stays with the Minister because she is the one with whom the buck stops and that is why we say the shifting of the blame is disingenuous at worst.”
The DA lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following the payment delay and an initial assessment is expected soon.
Masango said the DA had approached the SAHRC not because this wasn’t the first Sassa grant delay, but because it was the worst.
She pointed out that system glitches were apparent since the Post Office handed over the duty of payments to Postbank.
On the issue of Postbank's board being fired and the company being put under administration, Masango strongly believes that the investigation by the SAHRC should determine the truth.
According to reports, the board of directors shared a letter of resignation, but the government said that they were fired.
When discussing the DA's social development policy, Masango said that the party believed that grants were not a permanent solution for some categories of the South African population.
The party believes that for older persons and disabled South Africans grants must be a given.
"We believe that for an economically active population grants must be a stop-gap measure while the economy of the country is made to improve so that people can get jobs. We are very mindful of many young people and others between the ages of 19 to 59 who are recipients of the Social Relief of Distress Grant - we are saying that the grant should be increased because what can anyone do with a grant of R350? That grant is a stop-gap measure while the government creates an environment for businesses to thrive and for people to be able to create jobs with small and medium-sized businesses, so that people can get out of grants and go to work so that their dignity can be restored [and they can then] look after their families. The situation that we have now is a crisis situation. It is not the situation we should be hoping to continue," stated Masango.