IT WASN’T ME ... BATHABILE SHIFTS THE BLAME

Min­is­ters Radebe and Mahlobo called to in­ter­vene in a dis­pute be­tween of­fi­cials de­lay­ing the Con­sti­tu­tional Court process Dlamini says Scopa hear­ings were a con­spir­acy by MPs and Sassa em­ploy­ees to make her look ‘in­ef­fi­cient and clumsy’ She blames Gordh

CityPress - - Front Page - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

Min­is­te­rial heavy­weights Jeff Radebe and David Mahlobo were asked to step in and ward off an­other cri­sis, just 20 min­utes be­fore the ex­piry of Mon­day’s 4pm dead­line granted to the SA Social Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) to file re­sponses to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. Social Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Bathabile Dlamini “put away her dig­nity” and asked the two to step in to deal with of­fi­cials bick­er­ing over who should sign an af­fi­davit.

In an in­ter­view yes­ter­day, Dlamini told City Press she was shocked that the court could hold her per­son­ally li­able for le­gal costs re­lated to the social grants cri­sis, and was con­sult­ing with her lawyers about how to fight this.

Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Radebe and State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Mahlobo rushed out of an ANC na­tional work­ing com­mit­tee meet­ing at Saint Ge­orge Ho­tel in Pretoria on Mon­day to set­tle the dis­pute, in­volv­ing Sassa’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) Thokozani Mag­waza, who had ap­par­ently in­sisted he would only sign the af­fi­davit if it were changed.

Dlamini said she called in Radebe and Mahlobo be­cause Mag­waza said he should be the one sign­ing the doc­u­ment, not act­ing CEO Wise­man Ma­gasela.

“In that meet­ing, we all looked at the af­fi­davit and we agreed. At the bot­tom Mr Ma­gasela was sup­posed to sign. Then the of­fi­cials went to make some ad­just­ments in the af­fi­davit and when they were sup­posed to sign, [Mag­waza] says: ‘No, no, but I am the CEO, so I am sup­posed to sign here,’” Dlamini said.

She said lawyers then spoke to Mag­waza, who un­til Mon­day had been on sick leave for a week, “telling him: ‘But you were not here’”.

“At about 3.40pm, I went there to find out what was go­ing on be­cause there was some­thing I was also sup­posed to sign. Then they told me that he was re­fus­ing to sign.”

Dlamini said she “put away [her] dig­nity and ran my­self to call min­is­ters Radebe and Mahlobo”.

“They went in there and [Mag­waza] said there was no prob­lem,” she said.

Re­gard­ing the sec­ond de­lay in fil­ing papers to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, on Tues­day, Dlamini said this was caused by her hav­ing to de­bate the grants cri­sis in Par­lia­ment.

But on Fri­day, Mag­waza told City Press there was no need for Radebe and Mahlobo to in­ter­vene. “The next thing ... Jeff Radebe and David Mahlobo walked in. And I even asked them: ‘Who called you here?’ They were laugh­ing and said: ‘So, ev­ery­thing is fine?’ We said: ‘Ev­ery­thing is fine,’ after which they stood up and left.”

RADEBE BLAMED

This week, se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials ac­cused Radebe, the head of gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion, for be­ing un­aware of Sassa’s in­abil­ity to re­solve the grants cri­sis.

They ac­cused Radebe of ne­glect­ing his core re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion, and fo­cus­ing more on com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“What did he do? He should have been giv­ing reg­u­lar up­dates to Cabi­net on the mat­ter,” said one.

Dlamini de­nied this, say­ing: “Radebe played his role. He is one of the min­is­ters who have been talk­ing to me even on the side­lines, want­ing to find out what is go­ing on.”

An of­fi­cial close to Radebe also said they had picked up the prob­lem and alerted the depart­ment, but no ac­tion was taken.

Mahlobo was un­able to com­ment as he was at­tend­ing the South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity troika sum­mit in Swazi­land.

On Fri­day, the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ex­tended the con­tract of Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices (CPS) to con­tinue dis­tribut­ing social grants for a year, un­til April 2018.

The court said Sassa and CPS were un­der a con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to pay social grants un­til an­other agency could do so.

SHOCKED!

Dlamini said she was “shocked” that the court asked her to sub­mit rea­sons she should not be held li­able for the costs of the court ap­pli­ca­tion.

“But I took so­lace in the or­der that we must write a re­port by March 31. So, we are go­ing to write the re­port. We met with the lawyers last night and started to do some work.”

Dlamini re­peated her apol­ogy to the na­tion for the cri­sis yes­ter­day, but com­plained she was be­ing treated un­fairly “be­cause there is this one woman that has to be brought down”.

“Peo­ple think they can use what­ever is there; whether wrongly or cor­rectly, they do that,” she said.

After weeks of deny­ing there was a cri­sis, “be­cause it has not hap­pened”, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma yes­ter­day apol­o­gised to South Africans “un­re­servedly”.

“Gov­ern­ment deeply re­grets the un­due anx­i­ety that re­sulted from the un­cer­tainty over grant dis­tri­bu­tion,” said Zuma in a state­ment, adding that he would lead the eight-mem­ber in­termin­is­te­rial com­mit­tee on com­pre­hen­sive social se­cu­rity, which now con­sists of three ad­di­tional min­is­ters: Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi, and Posts and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Siyabonga Cwele.

WASN’T ME...

Dlamini said last week’s hear­ings on Sassa by Par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts (Scopa), where she came un­der at­tack from MPs, was a witch-hunt in­sti­gated by “ven­omous” peo­ple inside Sassa with “prox­im­ity to politi­cians”.

“And politi­cians want to use this process as an en­try point with­out talk­ing to me. I take ex­cep­tion to that,” she said yes­ter­day, adding that they had con­spired to make her look “in­ef­fi­cient and clumsy”.

Dlamini said she did not have con­fi­dence in Sassa em­ploy­ees be­cause “they have been con­tin­u­ously try­ing to cre­ate con­fu­sion and in­sta­bil­ity [in the agency]”.

She said for­mer Sassa CEO Fezile Maki­wane was dis­cred­ited by the same staff and later won a defama­tion claim of R10 mil­lion against the agency.

“I had to take very strong mea­sures to pro­tect [Maki­wane’s suc­ces­sor] Vir­ginia Petersen be­cause they also wanted to re­move her. And South Africa knows that Vir­ginia was one of the best CEOs Sassa ever had, [but] I also had to go the ex­tra mile to de­fend her be­cause the very same peo­ple that got rid of Maki­wane were the very same peo­ple that cre­ated prob­lems for Vir­ginia.”

BLAME PRAVIN GORDHAN

Dlamini said Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gordhan also jumped the gun when he ques­tioned, be­fore Scopa, the in­ter­est ac­crued by Grindrod Bank dur­ing the five-day pe­riod in which it holds Sassa funds. She said he should have sought clar­ity on whether the money was be­ing paid back to Sassa be­fore pub­licly ques­tion­ing it.

“We get that in­ter­est, but what we have not done is to in­ves­ti­gate whether that is the cor­rect amount. But we do get that amount and it comes back to Sassa,” she said.

Dlamini added that she was also frus­trated by mixed mes­sages from Trea­sury and that “there was a time I raised the mat­ter with them when we used to get promis­ing re­sponses from [Gordhan] and dif­fer­ent re­sponses from his team”.

WHAT NEXT?

Dlamini said that she would fol­low the court or­der and mon­i­tor Sassa closely, and that no one should now ac­cuse her of in­ter­fer­ing.

Mean­while, Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Bu­sisiwe Mkhwe­bane has an­nounced that she is plan­ning to in­ves­ti­gate Sassa. A spokesper­son said the of­fice had no­ti­fied Dlamini and her di­rec­tor-gen­eral.

The ANC said Par­lia­ment would act against those in­volved in the Sassa mat­ter and hold them “ac­count­able”.

The SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) has called for Dlamini to be fired and the topic will be back on the agenda in the fol­low-up bi­lat­eral meet­ing be­tween the SACP and ANC next Mon­day.

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

HOT SEAT Social Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Bathabile Dlamini

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