Government will have to use pigeons if it is to deliver social grant payments to 17 million recipients on 1 April.
This is the word from Serge Belamant, chairman and CEO of Net1 UEPS Technologies, reportedly commenting on the suggestion of another company taking over payments of social services.
Belamant is adamant Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a Net1 subsidiary, is the only entity that will be able to handle the ambitious task of delivering payments to the country’s most vulnerable citizens.
CPS has been the sole paymaster of social grants in SA, despite an invalid contract − the court suspended the invalidity declaration pending the contract’s expiration and the contract will reach its sell-by date in little more than two weeks.
Yesterday, chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and Constitutional Court (ConCourt) justices heard arguments from representatives to determine a way forward for the future of social grants.
The matter was brought to the attention of the ConCourt by Black Sash, which fears the worst for social payments when the CPS contract expires at the end of the month. The human rights organisation also entered its application so the ConCourt can play a supervisory role to ensure grants are not disturbed.
Various suggestions were presented, including extending the invalid contract and the suspension order of invalidity, to ordering a new contract between CPS and the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) effective from 1 April.
The Star reports the CPS boss reiterated his company is the only one with the capacity to deliver social grants.
Belamant reportedly said unless government could send “pigeons to fly around” and deliver the cash, no one else could make the payments.
“We are not unreasonable people. One thing we have proved is we can do the job. Is there anybody who can step into our shoes? The answer is no, except for the Post Office or the pigeons they can use to, you know, fly money around. But apart from these, who else is available?” The Star quoted Belamant.
The SA Post Office (SAPO) has been open about its desire to take on the task of social grant payments when the current contract ends. In this instance, social development minister Bathabile Dlamini has always cited the Post Office’s inability to deal with the magnitude of social grant payments.
Yesterday, the court heard from SAPO’s legal representative as to why it is a suitable contender.
Aslam Bava argued the Post Office can offer a better service and system to make social grant payments more effectively than CPS.
He noted systems need to be in place to reach people in the most rural places. Although Mogoeng was sceptical about claims the Post Office will be able to start delivering grants within one month, Bava said the technical people at Post Bank have assured him and SASSA they can take over grant payments in this time period.
It was concluded that whatever happens in future with regards to social service payments, SAPO and Post Bank are serious contenders and must not be overlooked.
While the social development minister has continually insisted there is no crisis at SASSA and beneficiaries will receive social grants at the beginning of next month, Mogoeng begs to differ.
The chief justice launched a scathing attack on the minister and the way she mishandled the core function within her portfolio. Mogoeng was unsatisfied with Dlamini’s excuse that she was remiss.
Mogoeng pointed to the critical nature of the current situation and how it is now up to the judiciary to do what they can to address it. He questioned why Dlamini sat idly with regards to the social grants debacle and why she should not be made to pay legal costs.
This afternoon, president Jacob Zuma will also have to field questions in Parliament as to why Dlamini has not been fired in light of the social grants crisis.
Civil rights organisations, members of Parliament, as well the public have joined calls for the removal of Dlamini from her position as social development minister.
Zuma has thrown his weight behind Dlamini’s ability to ensure beneficiaries will be paid on 1 April, and has gone as far as to instruct Cabinet ministers not to speak on the matter.
The president will, among others, explain to National Assembly members what steps he intends to take against Dlamini, who has shown disregard for the rule of law and ConCourt ruling that declared the CPS contract invalid.
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