CAPE TOWN, March 16 (Xinhua) -- South African President Jacob Zuma said Thursday that lessons would be gleaned from "the current unfortunate episode" in relation to the growing anxiety over the social grant saga.
The government will ensure that there is no recurrence, Zuma told MPs in his first parliamentary appearance this year.
Zuma was responding to a question about what steps he intends to take against Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, who has allegedly led her department into a national grant pay-out crisis, putting the lives of the most vulnerable citizens at risk and allegedly showing a complete disregard for the rule of law.
There have been 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.
The issue has rattled the country, with political parties, labor unions, non-governmental organizations and ordinary South Africans calling for the sacking of Dlamini.
Zuma rejected calls for Dlamini to resign, saying there was no reason to fire her before "anything has happened".
"This is another kind of democracy that if you expect someone is going to make a mistake or is going to fail, that person must be punished before it happens. It's a funny democracy," he said.
Zuma said the government is doing everything possible to ensure that there are no interruptions to the normal process of paying social grants to beneficiaries at the end of this month.
"As government we will ensure that a sustainable payment solution is found which is compliant with our black economic empowerment imperatives," Zuma said.
The solution must also help ensure that fraud and corruption do not take place in the social grants payment system, he added.
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 his department would give the go-ahead to sign with the CPS, only if the Constitutional Court approved the deal.
The CPS wants the Court to order that it enters into a new and "lawful" contract with the SASSA after the existing contract expires on March 31.
Early this month, the court reserved judgment in the SASSA and CPS saga, fueling anxiety over the grant payment. The Court failed to get an answer from the CPS about how much it will charge for distributing social grants if it concludes a new contract with the SASSA.
The Court ordered the Department of Social Development to explain why its agency SASSA failed to meet a deadline to secure another service provider to distribute social grants.