CAPE TOWN, March 16 (Xinhua) -- A ministerial task team has been set up to address uncertainty over the payment of social grants to millions of beneficiaries, the South African government said on Thursday.
"We are a caring government and the needs of our people are our priority. We are collectively working towards ensuring that grant beneficiaries are not disadvantaged by these unfortunate events," the government said in a statement after a fortnightly cabinet meeting in Cape Town.
This refers to speculations that no grants will be paid to about 17 million pensioners next month after the government failed to set up the legal mechanism to distribute the grants.
A contract between the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for the grant distribution has been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said earlier that it was not a case of not having the money available but that his department would give the go-ahead to sign with the CPS, only if the Constitutional Court approved the deal.
Early this month, the court reserved judgment in the SASSA and CPS saga, fueling anxiety over the grant payment.
The government will consider proposals with a view to strengthening conditionalities as well as consequence management and identifying an appropriate transitional period, the government statement said.
The government assures South Africans that it is dealing with the matter at the highest levels.
The ministerial task team approved by the cabinet consists ministers from the Presidency, Social Development, Finance, Science and Technology, Home Affairs, Telecommunications and Postal Services, and State Security.
The government is reviewing the conduct of the SASSA, especially in relation to its administrative capacity and management and making a recommendation, and developing a contingent plan, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said while briefing the media on the cabinet meeting.
A comprehensive institutionalized payment system for grants is being devised, he said.
The government ensures the payment of grants as from April 1, 2017, Radebe said.
This echoed the view of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini who assured on Tuesday that there is no crisis at the SASSA and that all eligible social grants beneficiaries will receive their money on April 1 and beyond.
Opposition parties have severely criticised Dlamini and the government for poorly handling the SASSA and CPS saga.
They accuse both Dlamini and government of maladministration, incompetence and gross negligence.