‘Dlamini knew since 2015’
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini allegedly knew as far back as July 2015 that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) would not be able to take over social grant payments from the beginning of this month. She even set up her own team to work on the project, ordering that it should not be “interrupted or delayed”.
This is contained in an affidavit filed by Sassa chief executive officer Thokozani Magwaza in the Constitutional Court on Friday, which has left Dlamini in pickle because she says she only found out about the looming crisis late last year.
Dlamini told the court that she only heard in October that the agency could not run social grant payments, and that she had ordered Sassa to inform the court in December.
Magwaza argued that Dlamini knew of Sassa’s shortcomings at least four months before the agency submitted a report to the court in November 2015, in which it undertook to take over the distribution of social grants from Cash Paymaster Services on April 1 this year.
He attached as evidence a letter Dlamini wrote to his predecessor, Virginia Petersen, on July 9 2015, in which she communicated her decision “to appoint” a specialised team to implement the project of establishing systems to ensure Sassa took over the payment of grants smoothly this year.
Dlamini appointed individuals to run the project, and they were to report directly to her. She retained direct control of the implementation process and “Sassa was instructed not to interrupt them or delay them”, Magwaza said. He added that Sassa’s efforts to control the project were therefore derailed. Tomorrow, former social development directorgeneral Zane Dangor is also expected to file an affidavit to deal with charges against him contained in Dlamini’s affidavit. Last month, the court ordered Dlamini to give reasons for she should not be held personally liable for the cost of the court application brought by civil society group Black Sash to urgently secure a last-minute arrangement for the payment of social grants on an interim basis. Three years ago, Sassa promised the court that it would set up systems to run the grant payments by this month. In his affidavit, Magwaza further said Dlamini was not part of a meeting that she claimed, in her court application, to have attended. At the meeting, Magwaza and Government Printing Works officials discussed the “printing of beneficiary cards”.
Responding to Dlamini’s claim that she told him to inform the court in December that Sassa would not meet its deadline, Magwaza said that because he had been in office for only a month, he tried to find alternative solutions involving local banks. But Dlamini was “determined that an internal solution will not be found”.
“It then transpired that the minister was against the utilisation of local banks and the SA Post Office,” Magwaza alleges.
He further charged that, when he filed court papers on February 28 explaining the situation ahead of the March 31 deadline upon legal advice, Dlamini withdrew them.
Who do you think should be held liable for the Sassa debacle?
SMS us on 35697 using the keyword SASSA and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50