Concern over grant take-over

THE countdown to the take-over of the social grant scheme by the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) has started, with just two months remaining before the April 1 deadline.
This week a furore erupted over Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini’s attendance of a two- day AU summit in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, which resulted in the cancellation of a meeting of the portfolio committee on social development where Dlamini and Sassa CEO Thokozami Magwaza were due to give a progress update on the readiness of Sassa to take over what is a huge task.
The department is set to take over the payout of grants to beneficiaries, with concerns being raised by opposition parties that Sassa is not ready to take over the distribution of the 17 million grants by the deadline of April 1 – and the minister’s absence has done little to allay fears.
Portfolio chairman Rose Capa, speaking to the media this week, hastened to assure the public that all was under control – well, nearly.
Capa indicated in an interview that South Africans who depend on grants would receive the payments due to them. “If that state of readiness has a few wobbles here and there, [then] we may begin to panic,” she said. “What we don’t know is the details, but we have a commitment they will be paid, and I’m sure they will.”
What is of concern is the fact that, by admission of the chairman of the portfolio, the details of a transition which will affect millions of South Africans’ very livelihood are “not known yet” – and this only two months before it is due to take place.
At the same time, President Jacob Zuma has officially rubber-stamped a fee freeze on public officials’ salaries, following a report by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office-Bearers in November last year. The commission proposed the freeze due to the current state of the country’s economy, inflation and available resources of the state.
The reality is that the economic outlook is dire and for social grants to be impacted upon, in any adverse way, would only spell misery and disaster for those already suffering in poverty.
It is hoped that the department is ready and that it is, indeed, sure of all the details. There is no other option.

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