As negotiations between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) continue, pressure appears to be mounting on Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
While the CPS contract to deliver the grants ends on March 31, pressure on Sassa to finalise a plan for the provision of grants seems to have come from outside the ANC and the tri-partite alliance, until now.
That is with the exception of National Treasury, who has been intimately involved in the process for some time. And on Tuesday, a Treasury official warned that Sassa would face the law if it acted illegally.
Sassa's bungling of the issue, as Cosatu put it on Thursday, has frustrated Parliament for some time, but Dlamini has so far appeared to evade sanction from anyone not seated in the opposition benches.
Sassa's contract with CPS was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court and it should have issued a fresh tender, and appointed a new service provider, by now but Sassa's attempts on this have failed.
Sassa told Parliament on Tuesday that it would probably set up a new contract with CPS. Negotiations between Sassa and CPS are due to end on Friday.
But behind the scenes, Sassa filed papers at the Constitutional Court asking it to allow CPS to be hired for another year. By Wednesday morning, that application had been withdrawn, reportedly because the inputs of all parties concerned had not been included in the papers.
Now, ANC MPs have spoken out against Dlamini. President Jacob Zuma summoned her director-general. And on Thursday, Cosatu outright called for her removal.
Cosatu called for her resignation or dismissal at a press conference on Thursday, saying the crisis around who will deliver social grants to millions of recipients after March 31 was more than administrative bungling, but "smells of corruption".
The chairperson of Parliament's portfolio committee on social development, Rosemary Capa, shielded Dlamini from tough questions from opposition MPs during a briefing last week. But the tide could be turning against Dlamini in the ANC caucus, judging by the reaction of ANC MPs who in the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).
Dlamini was a no-show during a Scopa briefing on Wednesday, where her officials reported on their progress.
ANC MP Mnyamezeli Booi said Dlamini needed to appear before the committee. In stark contrast to the soft touch of his colleagues on the social development committee, Booi warned that a Parliamentary inquiry and forensic investigation could follow.
And, in a further show of concern, Cabinet is set to convene a special meeting next week for the sole purposes of discussing the social grants question. At a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said the Sassa issue had been raised in the Cabinet meeting, but that there was not enough time to discuss all the details.
So Cabinet will meet next week to discuss the problem "in all its complexities and details".Suggest a correction