‘Dlamini knew since 2015’

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

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

Thokozani Mag­waza

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