MPs and minister argue over social grants in Parliament

Bathabile Dlamini says government is “paying our people properly” because of the work done by Net1

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Photo of Bathabile Dlamini
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini has again apologised for the “confusion” surrounding the expiry of Cash Paymaster Services’ contract to pay grants. But she praised “the great strides” that have been made in improving SASSA’s efficiency over the past years.

Dlamini was speaking at the Department of Social Development’s Budget Vote in Parliament on Thursday.

Plans were being made to phase in a new service provider by November this year, said Dlamini. “This will give us enough time to ensure a seamless transition when the current contract comes to an end in March 2018.”

Of the department’s R160 billion budget, R151 billion goes towards the social assistance programme, said Dlamini.

Shortly before Dlamini presented, about 100 people protested outside Parliament about the state’s handling of social grants.

In the face of criticism of the current service provider, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a subsidiary of Net1, Dlamini said that credit must be given to CPS because they “are paying our people properly because of the work that they have done”.

She said that contrary to the “the doomsday predictions that some wished for”, grants were all paid on 1 April.

“Allow me once more to say without any fear of contradiction that we accept the supervision of the Constitutional Court. Equally, we accept the oversight role of Parliament through the Portfolio Committee on Social Development on SASSA’s plan of finding a cost effective and long term solution on the payment of social grants,” she said.

Addressing concerns about the security of beneficiaries’ data, she said that “data security and integrity are essential aspects of our envisaged payment solution”. She said that a “robust data governance platform to protect beneficiary data and information” is being built. She added that “proof of life and authentication using biometrics remains our priority”.

Dlamini also plans to amend the Social Assistance Act to introduce a funeral and savings fund for social grant beneficiaries.

Shouting and heckling could be heard throughout the budget vote from MPs belonging to all parties. Speeches were interrupted as MPs threw insults at one another and had loud conversations with their colleagues, drowning out the speakers.

Dlamini’s address was followed by strong dissent from opposition parties, with DA Shadow Minister of Social Development Bridget Masango saying Dlamini showed “no commitment” to the goals of the department, such as endeavouring to create a better life for the poor, vulnerable and excluded.

“This is the same Minister, tasked with protecting the poorest of the poor, whose preferred place of residence is the Oyster Box Hotel. Yet, she insists that South Africans can survive on R753 a month,” she said.

She said that Dlamini’s past actions show that she “simply cannot be trusted with the budget for the department”.

DA Shadow Minister for Social Development Lindy Wilson gave a fiery speech that was interrupted by arguments between ANC MPs and DA MPs.

“Why is the department outsourcing its functions? Why is money wasted on expensive consultants? What are the people employed in this department doing?” she asked.

“Whose side is the Minister really on? Not on the side of the poor.”

A call was made for an “honest assessment of Minister Dlamini’s department’s performance” by IFP MP Liezel van der Merwe. She also said that the IFP continued to support an increase in the social grants for the most vulnerable.

COPE MP Deidre Carter said that if the minister had “any integrity” she would have tendered her resignation after the Constitutional Court’s judgement.

TOPICS:  Parliament Social Grants

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