Grant recipients wait for payouts at a Sassa office. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Grant recipients wait for payouts at a Sassa office. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The Black Sash has not opposed the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) application for a six-month extension to its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) but has recommended to the Constitutional Court that a number of conditions be attached to the extension.

Included in those conditions is that there must be a moratorium on the issuing of new Easypay Everywhere (EPE) bank accounts by affiliates of CPS’s holding company, Net1.

On Monday Net1 informed shareholders that the court had scheduled a hearing for March 6 to consider Sassa’s application for a six-month extension, which expires at end-March 2018. "The application has not been opposed by any parties to the matter, although certain respondents have requested that the Constitutional Court considers further orders, including the repayment of any profits derived by CPS under the Sassa contract and a moratorium on the roll-out of Net1’s Easypay Everywhere product," said Net1.

The Black Sash indicated that it was not possible to oppose the application because of the urgency of the situation and the need to ensure continued payment to the social grant recipients. In its response to the application for extension, it slammed Sassa for its failure to meet the end-March deadline and for not having a firm plan to secure future distributions.

In her affidavit, Black Sash executive director Lynette Maart referred to "the paucity and opacity of the information placed before the court by Sassa regarding its plans from 1 April 2018 beyond the application for a CPS cash payment extension".

Maart said Sassa had known since at least December 18 2017 that it would require a CPS cash payment extension. "It has, without explanation, delayed for nearly eight weeks before bringing this application," said Maart. She said, given that Sassa has no contingency plan, the delay was an attempt to create a fait accompli so the panel would be forced to grant the extension.

Maart said there was no indication of the state of readiness of plans to use the South African Post Office and commercial banks. She has called on the court to extend its oversight role and the requirement that Sassa submit monthly progress reports. She also wants the mandate of the panel of experts to be extended.

Maart said activities related to the promotion of any products related to the Net1 group should be prohibited. In addition, "A moratorium ought to be placed on the issuing of new EPE cards (beyond the existing approximately 2-million) until Sassa’s new social grant system is fully established with all the different payment channels," said Maart.

Because of the general confusion and the lack of an official communication plan she believed the Net1 affiliates would be able to use the CPS position to promote their products.

In the Sens statement issued on Monday Net1 noted that the court had said it could not be precluded from participating in Sassa’s tender for the distribution of cash to a portion of the 10.7-million social grant recipients after March 31 2018.

When Sassa issued the tender in December it prohibited CPS from participating in it. On February 6, CPS launched an application with the court, requesting a declaration that it was not prohibited from participating in the tender.