Yadhana Jadoo
3 minute read
1 Mar 2017
5:01 am

The poor being held hostage by Dlamini’s lack of action, says expert

Yadhana Jadoo

Professor Tessa Hochfeld predicts that there will be huge protests if grants are not paid out.

Millions of households could go hungry if no solution is found to the crisis facing the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to ensure those who rely on social grants get their money.

But there was still a “no-show of political leadership” at Sassa’s appearance before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Tuesday when the agency answered questions about its readiness to pay out grants come April 1.

According to the Centre for Social Development in Africa’s Professor Tessa Hochfeld, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini should have appeared before Scopa as Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza called in sick.

“There should have been a show of political leadership. It would have been important to see her (Dlamini) there to see what steps are going to be taken for people to be paid.

“There is enormous anxiety around this. They haven’t done anything and it’s only a month away.”

READ MORE: Sassa admits it has no plan to pay out social grants

As grants enable countless households to purchase basic foodstuffs and items children need for school, the situation could become dire.

“The effect of not receiving it will be disastrous – that grant is the only money they can 100% rely on. It will cause hunger in households.”

Hochfeld said poor people were being “held hostage” by the minister’s lack of action.

“She needs to answer the questions. She’s the head and the responsibility to pay grants lies with her.

“They have painted themselves into a corner – at the moment it’s a national crisis and the minister is not managing this when it is entirely her responsibility.”

Hochfeld predicted that there would be protests if grants were not paid out.

“Seventeen million people can’t go without this [payout],” she added.

“Research shows that grants are used for basic goods such as oil and pap that will last throughout the month.

“The other significant costs are school-related, from the child support grant.”

READ MORE: Is Sassa CEO ‘sick’ because of the mess he created?

With this, some people paid for their children to go to crèches so they could work, said Hochfeld.

It was also used for school fees, stationery and clothing.

The Democratic Alliance has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the calamity.

“Sassa knew in August or September last year that they would be unable to handle the takeover of grants on April 1, 2017. Why did they not put out a competitive bid then?” asked MP Bridget Masango. “So embarrassing was this situation that Minister Dlamini was noticeably absent and the Sassa CEO developed a sudden sickness to avoid the Scopa engagement.

“Their absence from the Scopa meeting is a slap in the face for social grant recipients and a clear indication that they simply do not care about the poor and vulnerable in our society.”

President Jacob Zuma must transfer the handover process to National Treasury immediately, Masanga said.

“The department of social development is clearly the cause of this crisis and will only continue to perpetuate it if left in control.”

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