The crisis over the invalid Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract has been resolved with a brand-new contract between it and Sassa, the Social Development Department said in Cape Town on Monday.
"On the first [of April] we start a new contract, but with the same service provider," SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) project leader Zodwa Mvulane said at a briefing in Cape Town.
"We do not have to go to court to request an extension. But we will go to court to explain ourselves," he said.
On March 15, the Constitutional Court is due to hear an application by the Black Sash non-governmental organisation that the court once again assume an oversight role over the grants system and that details of the latest agreement be made available.
In 2014, the court declared the CPS contract invalid and ordered a new tender process. However, because no suitable company was found, the declaration of invalidity was suspended until March 31, 2017.
The department was supposed to have had a new in-house system in place by April 1, but this has not happened, creating fears over how 17 million grants would be paid out every month.
Contrary to some of the criticism she has had to face, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini received a hero's welcome when she arrived in the chandelier-lit ballroom of the Cape Sun Hotel on Monday.
Religious leaders prayed fervently for her and delegates repeated "In Jesus's name!" after each of their pleas.
"We spray the blood of Jesus over this minister! She is the child of God. She deserves the best," said Bishop Templeton Mbekwa. Dlamini's opponents should at least bring a better fight, he said.
He left the podium calling on the descendants of Jan van Riebeeck to go back to Holland.
Dlamini started her address to the crowd of mostly women in the room, by saying that Sunday's events, where she walked out of a press briefing, were terrible.
She walked out when eNCA reporter Karyn Maughan pressed her for more details on how grant recipients would be paid. She said the black reporters there worked diligently, but the "others" seemed to have their own agenda.
Speaking mostly isiZulu, and switching occasionally to English, Dlamini said she only found out in December that the department would not be able to do in-house payments.
She felt the nation needed an apology over the saga, even though Sassa was not to blame.
She urged delegates to not give up hope and to go home and tell people that they would be paid their grants on April 1.
Mvulane took over and translated to explain that the department had considered numerous options, such as using the Post Bank. However, with only 2,700 outlets, compared to the current 10,000 Sassa had through CPS, this would not work.
Ordinary banks were also out of the question because they charged service fees, which would eat into grants.
Mvulane said the new contract would phase in changes such as:
- No purchases allowed by cellphone. Purchases for electricity, for example, would have to be done face to face;
- Current Sassa cards would expire in December. There would be limits on where the new cards could be swiped. They would not be useable at liquor outlets, for example, and;
- Money lenders would have to be paid in cash because the card would only work with a fingerprint scan, which banks did not have yet. Money lenders would not be able to take their clients' cards and pin numbers anymore.