By Hassan Isilow
A court prevented millions of South African welfare recipients from going hungry on Friday when it ordered the government to continue its current payment contract.
Around 17 million vulnerable people -- one in three South Africans -- had faced missing out on crucial social security payments worth $67 million because the government had failed to find a replacement payments company to take over the contract from April 1.
However, the Constitution Court ruled that the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) should extend its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) by 12 months, despite a previous court decision that the contract was invalid.
Justice Johan Froneman said SASSA and CPS were constitutionally obliged to pay welfare grants until another provider was found.
The social safety net, which protects groups such as single mothers, disabled people, pensioners and war veterans, is one of the African National Congress’ most significant achievements in its 23-year rule.
Opposition parties and civil society groups have called for the dismissal of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini over the fiasco. However, she has been defended by President Jacob Zuma.