Tell us why: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng wanted to know why, if Sassa was aware in December it would need to extend the CPS contract, it had waited until February to approach the court. Picture: SUPPLIED
Tell us why: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng wanted to know why, if Sassa was aware in December it would need to extend the CPS contract, it had waited until February to approach the court. Picture: SUPPLIED

There would be chaos if the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) was not allowed to extend its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) for six months, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

Sassa approached the court in February requesting the extension, just shy of two months until the unlawful contract with CPS was to come to an end, as ordered by the same court in 2017.

It has been argued the extension was needed for the seamless transition to a new system for the payment of social grants.

The South African Post Office was ready to take over the payment of social grants but needed the assistance of CPS on a diminishing scale.

Advocate Aslam Bava, for the post office, said there needed to be a transition process.

"It is not that on day one everything cuts off and goes over [to the new system]…," he told the court.

Advocate Nazeem Cassim, for Sassa, said there needed to be a changeover from the old Sassa card, which was on the Net1 domain, of which CPS is a subsidiary, to the new card on the post office domain.

Referring to the post office’s state of readiness, Bava said initially 250,000 new cards would be produced and issued to beneficiaries and on April 9 another 250,000 would be issued.

As of April 16, 250,000 cards would be produced every day until all 10-million beneficiaries had one.

"What Sapo [South Africa Post Office] does not want is that there is no back-up from CPS," he said.

The Black Sash raised issues around the protection of beneficiaries’ personal data, but was not opposing the application brought by Sassa to extend the CPS contract.

The Constitutional Court judges took exception to Sassa approaching the court again at the last minute. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked Cassim why, if Sassa was aware in December it would need to extend the CPS contract, it waited until February to approach the court.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said there appeared to be a pattern that showed Sassa or the Department of Social Development were not dealing with this matter with urgency.

Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini has been accused of frustrating the social grant process and is facing an inquiry into why she should not be personally liable for the fiasco in 2017, when it came to light that Sassa would not be able to take over the payment of social grants.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa removed Dlamini and replaced her with Susan Shabangu in a Cabinet reshuffle.

The extension application was lodged when Dlamini was social development minister.

When asked what would happen if the Constitutional Court did not grant the extension of the CPS contract, Cassim said "there will be chaos".

Another issue raised by the Black Sash and Freedom Under Law was whether CPS should benefit from an unlawful contract. Freedom Under Law argued that CPS be forced to pay back R700m to the state.

Judgment was reserved.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za