JOHANNESBURG, March 15 South Africa's highest
court will hear an application on Wednesday seeking to have it
take oversight of a renewed contract that must be clinched
before Thursday to ensure welfare grants are paid on time in
April to 17 million people.
The existing contract, run by Cash Paymaster Services (CPS),
a unit of technology company Net1 unit, has been
shrouded in doubt since the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014
that the tender process to acquire its services was unlawful.
The government's South African Social Security Agency
(SASSA) was supposed to have taken over the responsibility to
make the social service payments or find an alternative pay
service on April 1 but failed to do so, leaving the state with
little choice but to allow CPS to continue.
CPS chief executive Serge Belamant was quoted as saying in
several local media outlets that for logistical reasons, a new
contract needed to be signed on Wednesday, or else it would not
be able to make payments on time on April 1, dramatically
raising the stakes in the game.
Officials at SASSA have said the agency has opted to renew
the deal with Cash Paymaster Services despite the court order. A
new deal has not yet been made public.
Dominated by more than 11 million child support grants, the
welfare system is a lifeline for South Africa's most vulnerable.
Each month long queues form at pay points across the country as
people wait for the money that is often the difference between
going to bed hungry or not.
Facing a hostile opposition in parliament on Tuesday, Social
Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said there was no crisis.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also said on Tuesday he was
confident the grants will be paid on April 1.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)