Really funny democracy

2017-03-28 06:02

ON Thursday, President Jacob Zuma told Parliament that this is a “funny democracy” if he is expected to take action against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini for her handling of the social grants debacle.

He said it is a “premature debate” because there has been no interruption in the delivery of grants and Dlamini has not committed any crime.

“It’s a funny democracy, a funny legal system that a person before committing a crime must then be judged and be punished … It’s almost like the rule of the jungle,” the president said during the parliamentary question session.

It seems this is indeed a “funny democracy” as Zuma’s government is so incompetent and untrustworthy that the Constitutional Court has had to step in and direct it on how to do its job and prevent a social catastrophe from unfolding.

The alarm bells have been ringing for months that no system was in place to pay over 17 million social grants from next month. Yet up to this week, Dlamini has been in arrogant denial that there is a crisis.

During a special debate in Parliament on Tuesday, Dlamini said she wanted to allay the fears of grant beneficiaries and ordinary South Africans who have been “confused by the prophets of doom and those who want to portray themselves as moral saviours as well as those who deepen this crisis”.

She received raucous applause from ANC MPs, who obviously believed her handling of the matter was outstanding.

On Thursday, Zuma stood steadfastly behind her, mocking opposition MPs for pointing out how she and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) have failed in their responsibilities. “It’s one thing for people to raise an issue that we are likely to get into trouble — that things may not be done. But to act as if April 1 has come and grants have not been given, therefore action must be taken, I say it’s a funny democracy,” Zuma said.

When Zuma was questioned by members of the opposition about the illegal deductions from grants by companies linked to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), he claimed not to know about it. “If I am going to investigate or do anything, I need evidence.

“I don’t know from which bank the money was deducted from, under which conditions or how …

“If this is true, you must bring evidence. I have no interest in rumours. How do you know the money is being deducted while you are sitting here? That can’t be true,” Zuma said during an exchange with United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa.

During the hearing in the Constitutional Court, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was scathing about Dlamini’s “absolute incompetence” with regard to the discharge of her duties.

In the judgment handed down yesterday, in which CPS was ordered to continue paying the grants for another 12 months, Dlamini and Sassa were slammed for their “extraordinary conduct” that placed in jeopardy millions of people’s rights to social security.

They were ordered to file affidavits with the court every three months on how they will pay grants at the end of the contract. It is a shameful indictment on the minister and a state agency that they need to be monitored to ensure they carry out their jobs.

Justice Johan Froneman ordered Dlamini to file an affidavit by March 31 explaining to the court why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity, and why she should not pay the costs of the parties “out of her own pocket”.

While the president and the minister paid no heed to the issue of the protection of information of the grant recipients, the court ordered that no third parties can have access to beneficiaries’ details to exploit them.

Froneman said it is the “deepest and most shaming of ironies” that the government relies on a private company to carry out its duties. This landmark judgment demonstrates that this is indeed a “funny democracy”.

• Ranjeni Munusamy is a political journalist and commentator for the Daily Maverick. ranjeni.munusamy@gmail.com

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