Dlamini failed beneficiaries, court hears

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Lulama Zenzile, Netwerk24)
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Lulama Zenzile, Netwerk24)

Johannesburg - Social Development Minister has failed in her constitutional duty in respect of social grants and the 17 million beneficiaries, the Constitutional Court heard on Wednesday.

Advocate Geoff Budlender, SC, representing Black Sash, said that as it stood, no-one knew who was going to pay the beneficiaries after March 31.

He argued that Dlamini had failed to apologise and take responsibility.

"The executive have failed to carry out their duties," Budlender told the full bench of justices.

The court gallery was packed to capacity with journalists, lawyers and supporters of Black Sash.

Oversight

Some elderly Sassa recipients made their way to court on Wednesday morning to hear what the court had to say.

In his submission to the court, Budlender said Dlamini had insisted that there was no crisis, and that the media, NGOs and other parties were making beneficiaries unsettled.

"The minister knew that Sassa would not be able to pay the grants itself. She claims she was kept in the dark for six months," Budlender argued.

He said that to ensure that there was effective oversight, they expected uninterrupted payments of grants after March 31.

"If the minister says she hasn't known about this in six months, that itself demonstrate that she cannot be relied upon."

Budlender further requested the court to give directions in the Sassa matter, as it deemed fit.

"We ask the court to view the contract to exercise jurisdictions. There has been a breach of Constitution. Sassa has failed to carry out its obligation to pay social grants."

He said Dlamini had also failed to inform the court after she found out in 2016.

Meanwhile, Advocate David Unterhalter for Freedom Under Law said there was an ongoing obligation that CPS had to render.

He requested the court to extend the Cash Paymaster Service's contract on the basis that they do not profit.

Profitable benefits

CPS had been enjoying the profitable benefits for five years before its contract was deemed unlawful. It was now constitutionally obligated to provide its service, for a limited period of no longer than 12 months, to allow Sassa to make its transition.

He said that in May 2016, CPS knew that time was running out, but failed to file any documents regarding its concerns to the court, despite receiving no answers from their custodians.

In 2014, the court ruled that the contract with CPS was illegal and invalid. It suspended the order of invalidity until March 31 this year to allow the department and Sassa to insource the administrative requirements to distribute grants.

A task team of Cabinet ministers has rejected proposed extension of Sassa's contract with CPS.

On Sunday, the Democratic Alliance released a letter it received from the Department of Social Development confirming there was still no new contract between the department or Sassa with CPS for the distribution of social grants from April 1.

New papers before the Constitutional Court reportedly show that Sassa and CPS had agreed to a two-year, fixed-price contract earlier this month.

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