17 March 2017
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RULING ON SASSA
“I will draw near to you for judgement… against those who falsely swear” Malachi 3:5
The Jesuit Institute welcomes the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the irregular contract between the Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) and South African Social Security Association (SASSA)/Ministry of Social Development be continued for a year. Furthermore, we support the ruling that during this time SASSA and the Minister must file affidavits every three months documenting progress on how they will pay social security grants after the contract expires. It is arguably the best of a series of bad to catastrophic alternatives.
The ruling exemplifies the importance of interpreting the spirit of a law as much as its letter. Though the ConCourt in effect condoned a situation that is at very least irregular (and possibly illegal), not paying the grants on April 1st would have been disastrous for 17 million people on benefits. This would no doubt have raised the possibility of mass starvation and created conditions likely to breed a national uprising. Above all, it would have been absolutely unjust to make the innocent suffer for the gross incompetence of SASSA and the Ministry. The marginalized and most vulnerable in the country have already suffered enough at the hands of those who are meant to take care of them.
What the case highlights is at very least the massive levels of incompetence and lack of accountability in the Ministry of Social Development. It also highlights that South Africa’s Parliament is not holding public officials to account. This is serious. The Prophet Malachi warns against those who “falsely swear” and promises judgement on those who “oppress the widow and the orphan and thrust aside the alien”.
Leaving aside the question of irregularities in tenders (which can only invite suspicion of corruption), this judgment calls into question the capability of Minister Dlamini to do her job. In any functional democracy such a question would result in her immediate sacking, or – if such a minister had any integrity – resignation. Will those who can, now call the Minister to account?
Sadly, this ministerial incompetence is not confined, one suspects, to Social Development and its Minister alone.
For more information contact: Dr Anthony Egan SJ: Tel +27 72 938 4553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org