Judgment reserved in Sassa case

Judgment reserved in Sassa case

The Constitutional Court has reserved judgement in the controversial social grants case. 

Concourt Constitutional Court judgement_jacanews
Photo: Maryke Vermaak

Human rights organisation Black Sash is at the centre of the court battle.


Advocate Geoff Budlender, for Black Sash, told the court Sassa had known for almost a year that it would not be able to pay social grants itself on 1 April.


"The social development minister (Bathabile Dlamini) and Sassa have acted in breach of their constitutional obligations," Budlender sumbitted during closing arguments.


Sassa's contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) had been declared unlawful by the very court in 2014. 


The current contract comes to an end on 31 March 2017.


During closing arguments, Freedom under Law's David Unterhalter, recommended: "The court should rather take the contract as it exists at the moment and say those are the terms on which the obligation will be carried out and if CPS has a difficulty it can approach the court or Treasury."


However, Advocate Alfred Cockrell earlier submitted that while his client, CPS, accepts its obligation to pay social grants if there isn't an alternative service provider, it won't be able to do so if the current contract is merely extended.


"CPS has agreed to continue to provide its services to Sassa at the current price, subject only to a CPI adjustment from April 2017 for the anticipated two-year contract."


But CPS CEO Serge Belamant earlier insisted, there is no alternative option for the court.


"The only person who can do the job is us, like I've been saying for the last three years. There is no one else who can do this job on the 1st of April. End of story!"


For over an hour, the Constitutional Court struggled to get an explanation from Advocate Andrew Breitenbach as to why Dlamini dealt with the social grants issue the way she did.


Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked: "To avoid drawing any inference that we ought not to draw about the competence or otherwise of your client, if you could help us to understand this, how does one get to this position?"


To which Breitenbach responded: "There is no warrant, I respectfully submit, to tarnish public servants who are doing their best to deal with an extremely difficult problem. My clients accept they should have reported to the court sooner."

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