The less we talk about social grants, the better - Zuma to ministers

By Faeza
07 March 2017

President Jacob Zuma has appealed to ministers and their spokespersons to stop talking about social grants and instead focus on making sure that millions of pensioners are paid at the end of March.

"I think ministers should stop talking, including their spokespersons. I think the point has been made. The less we talk, the better.

"We need to work towards making sure that on the 1st the pensioners are paid," Zuma said in an interview with the SABC in Jakarta, Indonesia, which was aired on Tuesday morning.

His comments come days after Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who is appearing before Parliament's standing committee on public accounts on Tuesday, clashed with eNCA reporter Karyn Maughan.

Dlamini walked out of a media briefing on Sunday after Maughan pressed her for more details on how grant recipients would be paid.

The minister told supporters on Monday that the black reporters at the briefing had done their jobs diligently, but that "others" had seemed to have their own agenda.

Invalid contract

On Monday, Dlamini's spokesperson Lumka Olifant refused to speak in English during an interview with Talk Radio 702, where she was being interviewed by Xolani Gwala.

During Sunday's briefing she shielded Dlamini from reporters who wanted answers on the grant payments.

In April 2014, the Constitutional Court instructed the Department of Social Development to take over the payments of grants by the end of March 2017 after it found irregularities in the appointment of Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), the company responsible for grants distribution.

It declared the contract invalid in 2013, but suspended the order until a new arrangement had been made.

Failure to come to an arrangement could leave 17 million people depending on state grants as their only source of income without a lifeline.

Zuma said there was no way that the state could fail to pay its "pensioners".

Call for resignation 'premature'

"I would suggest that the nation should really calm down and wait for that date [1 April].

"There are people speaking as if the date has come and passed and saying that the department has failed and the minister has failed. But the date has not come."

Defending Dlamini, Zuma said it was premature to call for her resignation.

"Others are calling for the dismissal of the minister because she has failed but the date has not come. How do you judge a person before the event?" he asked.

"People seem to have preconceived ideas on this matter and I would really like to appeal to people to calm down and wait for the first [of April] as to what is going to happen," he continued.

Zuma said he had been assured by his ministers that the millions of South Africans who expect their social grants on April 1 would receive them.

"Having been assured by the ministers that have met and knowing what work has done... Ministers said that it cannot be that on the first pensioners don't get their pay. They will get their pay and therefore the country should really not take this matter as though a problem has arisen."

Zuma said ministers who were speaking publicly about the matter were helping fuel speculation.

"They must work on what we have agreed on and pay people on the date, because talking to the country and answering questions does not help, in fact it helps to fertilise the situation where people make a lot of speculation," Zuma said.

Source: News24