S.Africa vows to pay 17 million welfare grants despite crisis

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A South African cabinet minister vowed Sunday that welfare grants to 17 million beneficiaries would continue to be paid despite confusion over a new payment process.

South Africa pays out around 140 billion rand ($10.7 billion) a year in grants to vulnerable people including pensioners, unemployed mothers and the disabled.

The payment had for years been outsourced to a private company Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), whose contract expires at the end of March.

Fears have mounted in recent days that the government might fail to pay the monthly grants from April after it failed to announce alternative arrangements.

But Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini told reporters in Pretoria on Sunday, “No-one will go unpaid. We are sure about that.”

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“We will continue paying social grants beyond March 31 when the contract with the current service provider comes to an end,” she said, without divulging details.

The current welfare payments system, administered by CPS was in 2014 ruled unlawful by the Constitutional Court which ordered a new one to be negotiated.

Opposition parties and non-profit organisations have led calls for the minister to step over the grants debacle.

The main opposition the Democratic Alliance said in a statement that it was taking the minister to court for placing “the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at risk” over her “failure to table a clear plan to resolve this crisis.”

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Welfare grants are pivotal in the country of 56 million people, where poverty and inequalities are widespread.

Analysts say the payouts, particularly in the rural areas, help the ruling ANC maintain its support.

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