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Zuma apologises for Sassa debacle and assures grants will be paid on April 1

By TMG Digital | 2017-03-18 13:19:07.0

President Jacob Zuma has apologised to the country for the “undue anxiety” caused by the social grants debacle‚ saying the government “deeply regrets” it‚ and has given the assurance that all beneficiaries will receive their social grants on April 1.

Welcoming the Constitutional Court’s decision on the social grants distribution‚ Zuma said he had directed the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure that the order of the court was implemented efficiently and diligently and in its entirety.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that the contract between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) would be extended for 12 months‚ under stringent conditions. There were concerns that the government would not be able to ensure distribution of the grants when CPS’ contract – which had previously been declared invalid by the court — expires at the end of this month.

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Zuma noted on Saturday that the court had given clear directives on the extension of the grants distribution and the parameters within which government must operate in this regard.

“I want to assure all grant beneficiaries that government will implement the directive of the Constitutional Court and uphold the Constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable in our society‚” he stated.

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He added that social security was one of the socio-economic rights that were mentioned specifically in the Constitution of the Republic.

“It is for this reason that we have worked so hard since 1994 to ensure that we bring millions of our poor and vulnerable citizens into the social security net. We are proud of our social assistance system and will continue working hard to strengthen it to ensure that it plays its role of alleviating poverty and providing support to orphans and vulnerable children‚ military veterans‚ older persons and persons with disabilities.

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Through the social grants system‚ it has been possible for the children of the poor to obtain government support from early childhood to matric‚” Zuma said

He added: “Government will ensure that all beneficiaries receive their social grants on 1 April.

“I have directed the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Comprehensive Social Security to ensure that the order of the court is implemented efficiently and diligently‚ in its entirety.”

The present members of the committee‚ established last year‚ are Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini (co-chairperson)‚ Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan (co-chairperson)‚ Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant‚ Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Zuma said he had now decided to lead and chair the committee and had also added three new members‚ namely the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services‚ Siyabonga Cwele‚ Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi and Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba.

The directors-general of the departments of Social Development and the National Treasury would co-chair the technical task team and lead the IMC secretariat‚ he said.

“Beyond the important directive from the Constitutional Court‚ the IMC will also focus on comprehensive social security reforms with a view to addressing the gaps and weaknesses identified and ensuring the provision of a comprehensive social security for all. The labour movement has been calling for comprehensive reforms of our social security system over a period of time. The IMC will assist Cabinet in moving that process forward.

“South Africa is a democracy which is governed by the Constitution and the rule of law. The ruling by the Constitutional Court indicates our progressive democracy and a functional system of checks and balances‚ which benefits our citizens<” Zuma stated.

He added: “Government deeply regrets the undue anxiety that resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution. We apologise to South Africans unreservedly.”