CAPE TOWN, March 18 (Xinhua) -- The South African government deeply regrets the undue anxiety that resulted from the uncertainty over grant distribution, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
"We apologize to South Africans unreservedly," Zuma said in a statement.
He was speaking after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruled on Friday that Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) can continue paying social grants to millions of eligible beneficiaries for another 12 months, settling a dispute that had rattled the country.
Zuma said the Court has given clear directives on the extension of the grants distribution and the parameters within which the government must operate in this regard.
"I want to assure all grant beneficiaries that government will implement the directive of the Constitutional Court and uphold the Constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable in our society," he said.
Under the ConCourt ruling, CPS and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) must continue paying social grants until another entity which can do so is found.
The ruling put to rest speculations that no grants would be paid to about 17 million pensioners next month due to the government's failure to set up the legal mechanism to distribute the grants.
A contract between the SASSA and CPS for the grant distribution had been declared illegal by the ConCourt years ago.
But in Friday's ruling, the Court said the declaration of the invalidity of the previous contract between the SASSA and CPS would be suspended for 12 months.
The terms and conditions in the previous contract would continue to apply, according to the ruling.
The CPS had asked the Court to allow it to enter 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 then failed to get an answer from the CPS about how much it would charge for distributing social grants if it concludes a new contract with the SASSA.
If CPS wanted to change how much it got paid, it could approach National Treasury, according to the new ruling.
Social security is one of the socio-economic rights that are mentioned specifically in South Africa's Constitution.
"It is for this reason that we have worked so hard since 1994 to ensure that we bring millions of our poor and vulnerable citizens into the social security net," Zuma said.
The social assistance system plays its role in alleviating poverty and providing support to orphans and vulnerable children, military veterans, older persons and persons with disabilities.