Seventeen million hostages freed — the moral universe can still bend towards justice!

South Africa's constitutional courtGood news!!! – a big victory today for justice and constitutional democracy (in South Africa).  In recent months, cynical politicians and an opportunistic businessman have tried to hold the seventeen million poorest South Africans (who receive social grants as their sole source of livelihood)  hostage for personal and political gain. This morning South Africa’s Constitutional Court demonstrated that the arc of the moral universe can still, sometimes, bend towards justice.

For at least the past year, Bathabile Dlamini, South Africa’s Minister of Social Development (and, appallingly, head of the ANC Women’s league), protected by president JZ, and Serge Belamant (CEO of publicly quoted company Net1, whose major shareholder is Allan Gray) have tried to manufacture a crisis – seemingly with the aim of forcing extortionist terms on South Africa, and holding the poorest in the country as ransom. (See here  for brilliant journalism which provides the background to this plot ) and here for an especially far-reaching, but informed speculation as to what might have been the sinister goals.)

This morning, justice trumped evil. The Constitutional Court’s ruling  included the following:

  • Net1 (through Cash Paymaster Services) has a constitutional obligation, and is required to continue paying social grants for the next twelve months.
  • Any adjustment to CPS contract (with the purpose solely of adjusting for increased costs) would need to be negotiated directly with National Treasury – whose Minister, Pravin Gordhan and staff have been, along with the court, stalwart heroes as South Africa’s political centre fights to push back against predatory kleptocracy).
  • Over the next twelve months, the Social Development department needs to put in place new arrangements for payment of social grants – and needs to report every quarter to the Constitutional Court on its progress in implementing these arrangements.
  • And, in a delicious example of just desserts, minister Bathabile Dlamini, needs to show the court by 31st March why she should not be held personally liable for costs associated with the lawsuit, filed to protect citizens against this cynical, willful act of political predation.

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