Power is with the people
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.