April 3, 2017 / 1:06 PM / 5 months ago

South Africa social welfare payments made after court battle

JOHANNESBURG, April 3 (Reuters) - South Africa's welfare department is making benefit payments to 17 million people across the country after a court battle involving the service provider averted a fiasco that had put their entitlements at risk, officials said on Monday.

The Constitutional Court last month ordered the government to pay social grants on April 1 via its current service provider, and sharply censured Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, calling her inaction in resolving the crisis incomprehensible.

The controversy over the grants stems from the social welfare department failing to take responsibility for social service payments or to find a new provider after the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that the tender won by Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a unit of technology company Net1 , was illegal.

"We want to say again we are very sorry about what happened ... they are happy that their money is here," Dlamini said on Monday, after touring various pay points around the country to supervise the payments.

The funding is a lifeline for the country's most vulnerable and includes more than 11 million child support grants.

Each month long queues form at pay points across the country as people wait for money that is often the difference between going to bed hungry or not.

More widely, South African President Jacob Zuma is facing a confrontation with senior members of the ruling African National Congress after the currency plunged following the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister on Friday. (Reporting by Olwethu Boso; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Bolton)

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