Power is with the peo­ple

CityPress - - Voices -

The strength of South Africa’s democ­racy was un­der­scored on Fri­day, show­ing those who gov­ern that power lies with the peo­ple. Ear­lier on Fri­day, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the ap­point­ment of Hawks boss Bern­ing Ntle­meza was in­valid and should be set aside. The ap­pli­ca­tion had been brought by civil so­ci­ety groups the He­len Suz­man Foun­da­tion and Free­dom Un­der Law, which ar­gued that the 2014 ap­point­ment was ir­ra­tional and un­law­ful.

At 10am, all eyes were on the Con­sti­tu­tional Court as it ruled on the grants pay­ment cri­sis, which had been brought about by the depart­ment of social devel­op­ment’s fail­ure to find a way to pay grants after the same court ruled in 2014 that its con­tract with Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices (CPS) was in­valid.

The ap­pli­ca­tion was brought by civil so­ci­ety group Black Sash and was sup­ported by the He­len Suz­man Foun­da­tion, Free­dom Un­der Law and Cor­rup­tion Watch. They wanted the courts to en­sure that grant ben­e­fi­cia­ries were not harmed by the self-cre­ated cri­sis.

The court or­dered that CPS should con­tinue with pay­ments of social grants from April 1 – but only for 12 months and un­der the same con­di­tions as the cur­rent con­tract. The court noted that, “in the deep­est and most sham­ing of ironies”, the SA Social Se­cu­rity Agency was seek­ing to rely “on a pri­vate cor­po­rate en­tity, with no dis­cernible com­mit­ment to trans­for­ma­tive em­pow­er­ment in its own man­age­ment struc­tures, to get it out of this predica­ment”.

The court fur­ther ruled that Social Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Bathabile Dlamini – whose ex­tra­or­di­nary con­duct brought about the cri­sis – must, by March 31, ex­plain why she should not pay the costs of the ap­pli­ca­tion out of her own pocket.

It was vic­tory over in­com­pe­tence, ar­ro­gance, a lack of car­ing and the abuse of pub­lic funds. Dlamini failed to prop­erly ac­count to Par­lia­ment, treated the pub­lic with con­tempt and cru­elly ex­posed the poor to un­cer­tainty. It took an an­gry cit­i­zenry and an alert civil so­ci­ety to force her to per­form what is ar­guably the most im­por­tant as­pect of her min­is­te­rial man­date.

Out of this cri­sis, we at least have a good story to tell as South Africans: we have a qual­ity ju­di­ciary, a vi­brant civil so­ci­ety and car­ing ci­ti­zens who are out­raged by wrong. These are the in­gre­di­ents of a sound, civilised demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

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