Zuma to Lead S. Africa Grant Reform After System’s Near Collapse
By Kevin Crowley
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma will chair an inter-ministerial committee set up to ensure social grants are paid to recipients on time after the government was criticized for leading the system close to failure.
The committee will consist of ministers including Pravin Gordhan, minister of finance, and Bathabile Dlamini, minister for social development, who has been criticized for her handling of the payment process, the government said Saturday in a statement. It will ensure the government implements a court order to improve transparency and reform the system.
The system of payments of more than 150 billion rand ($12 billion) a year was on the brink of collapse because Dlamini and the South African Social Security Agency failed to find a new company to administer the program after the court declared the original contract with Net1 UEPS Technologies Inc. invalid more than two years ago. South Africa’s Constitutional Court on Friday ordered the contract’s extension to avoid a “potential catastrophe” and slammed the government’s handling of the matter.
“Government deeply regrets the undue anxiety that resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution,” it said in the statement. “We apologize to South Africans unreservedly.”
While Dlamini accepted a degree of responsibility for the problems, she said she was not entirely to blame, the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported, citing an interview with the minister. Media, opposition parties and SASSA executives were also responsible for fanning the flames of the crisis, she said, according to the report.