JOHANNESBURG – While the Treasury has declined to comment on guarantees made by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini that grants will be paid on 1 April, the minister remains adamant that talks are set to begin shortly with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to negotiate a new contract.
About 17 million South Africans are dependent on social grants and questions have been asked about whether they will be paid.
In 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled that the deal with CPS was invalid and the department was required to find a new company or means to distribute the grants.
However, the contract was allowed to run until the end of this month.
Tensions escalated at a briefing with Dlamini and journalists on Sunday in Pretoria.
Dlamini said it was the media that had been misleading the public over South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) payments after coming under fire for avoiding questions surrounding the department’s relationship with national treasury.
An argument ensued between ENCA journalist Karyn Maughan and the minister.
“And unfortunately it is the media that has been perpetuating that we’re not going to pay on 1 April. And so you must go back and correct it.”
The minister refused to answer questions about the resignation of Zane Dangor as director-general.
“Don’t come here with your preconceived ideas. If I did not stand up, you were going to say I’m a lame duck. Now that I’ve stood up because things were not moving, I’m now flouting the Constitution.”
Dlamini said the South African Post Office’s more than 2,600 outlets will be used as one of the payment services for social security in the transition and future phases.
In an attempt to resolve the looming crisis, President Jacob Zuma held talks on Saturday with Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan and Dlamini to ensure that social security payments are made from 1 April.
Sassa has so far failed to find a new service provider to take up the service at the start of April or set up its own payment agency.
Its officials said last week the agency had opted to renew the deal with CPS despite the court order. A new deal however, has not yet been signed.