Hundreds of South African opposition activists yesterday marched in Pretoria to protest against the risk of non-payment in April of social benefits for 17 million people, a crisis that reveals intense tensions within the government.
South Africa pays 140 billion rand (€ 9.9 billion) annually for retirees, the unemployed and the disabled.
The payment is subcontracted to a private company, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), whose contract ends at the end of March.
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who is close to President Jacob Zuma, has been under fire for several weeks for not having anticipated the end of this contract and found an alternative solution.
“The corruption and incompetence of this government have put at risk the allocations for 17 million South Africans. For many people it is a matter of life or death,” said Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which organized the march.
“If the minister fails in this project … we will launch criminal proceedings against her,” he added before demanding the resignation of Mrs. Dlamini.
The latter has repeated since the beginning of the case that the pensions will be paid well in time and that a new contract will be signed between the State and the CPS company.
The case once again highlights the tense relations within the African National Congress (ANC) government between President Zuma’s relatives and those behind the Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan.
The head of the Treasury maintains that any new contract signed for the payment of the allowances must go through a tender process, contrary to what Mrs Dlamini asserts.
Analysts agree the payment of allowances is a factor in the continued strong popularity of the ANC in rural areas.