President Jacob Zuma has spoken out about the ongoing debacle over the payment of social welfare grants by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), saying there is no “crisis” over the fate of 17 million grant recipients dependent on government’s financial assistance come April 1.
Speaking in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, where he is attending the 20th session of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Zuma assured South Africans social grants would be paid next month when the current contract between Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expires.
“It’s unfortunate that people have been going ahead of events … they will get their pay, and the country must not take this matter as if a problem has arisen‚” Zuma told eNCA in an interview.
He said there was no crisis and urged his Cabinet ministers involved in the matter to not engage in public spats, an indirect reference to a standoff between Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and her counterpart, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“I’d like to appeal to the ministers themselves that they should not talk in public and answer questions. They must work on what we have agreed, and pay people on the date.
“Talking to the country and answering questions is not helping. In fact it helps to fertilise the situation where people are speculating,” said Zuma.
Zuma also explained his decision to summon the ministers at the weekend to brief him about how they were handling the issue of payment grants.
“I wanted to be more certain whilst I’d been briefed, but because of the speculation, I thought it was important to meet the ministers to make sure and to give the necessary instructions that, on the first, old people must be paid their pensions.
“There is no way that a country can fail to pay its pensioners, and I would suggest for the nation should really calm down and wait for that date,” he said.
On Monday, the department of social development said it had secured a new contract between CPS and Sassa.
Sassa project leader Zodwa Mvulane, speaking at a briefing in Cape Town, said the new contract would come into effect on April 1.
“We do not have to go to court to request an extension. But we will go to court to explain ourselves,” Mvulane said.
But it remains unclear if National Treasury will give the new contract with CPS the green light without the Constitutional Court approving the contract first. The court declared Sassa’s contract with the service provider in 2014 invalid and unconstitutional.