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The social grants debacle in SA throws up a number of questions about the country’s state of politics, governance, leadership and democracy. A fundamental question pertains to an undertaking made to the country’s Constitutional Court by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) that it would take over the distribution of social grants from Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), the private company it had contracted to do the job. This followed the court’s ruling that the CPS contract was invalid because procurement processes had been flouted. Conscious of the catastrophic implications of the declaration, especially regarding the lives of 17-million recipients, the court suspended the invalidity. Sassa, an agency of the Department of Social Development, is charged with the administration of grants. It originally told the court that it would take over the grant payments. It later admitted that it was not able to do so and would appoint a third party. The political responsibility for th...

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