Mil­i­tary vet­er­ans up in arms over Sassa wages

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

In the same week in which for­mer so­cial de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor-gen­eral Zane Dan­gor dis­puted So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini’s ex­pla­na­tions about why she should not be held li­able for the grants pay­ment cri­sis, the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) was con­fronted with a labour emer­gency.

Sassa is fac­ing an up­roar in parts of Gaut­eng from dis­grun­tled sup­port work­ers dis­sat­is­fied with the R3 000 stipends they agreed to in Jan­uary last year.

Some 450 mil­i­tary vet­er­ans were sec­onded to Sassa to per­form du­ties such as grant cap­ture and ad­min­is­tra­tion, as well as work as driv­ers, screen­ers and data cap­tur­ers. They now have gripes with their em­ploy­ment con­di­tions, in­clud­ing the stipends they agreed to un­til 2018.

The sec­ond­ment was part of gov­ern­ment’s job-creation in­ter­ven­tions to curb the in­volve­ment of un­em­ployed for­mer sol­diers in crim­i­nal acts such as cash-in-tran­sit heists.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the work­ers told City Press this week that they were of the opin­ion that they were be­ing un­der­paid.

He said the group felt they were be­ing un­fairly dis­crim­i­nated against as some col­leagues were earn­ing as much as R15 000 to R22 000. It was not clear in what ca­pac­ity or pro­fes­sions these high-earn­ing em­ploy­ees were serv­ing.

He said Sassa chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Thokozani Mag­waza and project head Zodwa Mvu­lane, who in­ter­viewed and fa­cil­i­tated the em­ploy­ment of the vet­er­ans last year, were aware of their griev­ances. Nei­ther Mag­waza nor so­cial de­vel­op­ment spokesper­son Lumka Oliphant had re­sponded to me­dia queries be­fore go­ing to press. Mean­while, Dan­gor told the Con­sti­tu­tional Court this week in an af­fi­davit that the fail­ure by Sassa to take over the pay­ment of grants at the end of the Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices (CPS) con­tract last month was self-cre­ated.

Dan­gor, who left of­fice last month, filed an af­fi­davit to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court on Mon­day back­ing Mag­waza’s state­ment about Dlamini, stat­ing that she had taken over the agency’s job of fa­cil­i­tat­ing the search and ap­point­ment of an al­ter­na­tive com­pany to distribute the grants.

Dlamini blamed Sassa of­fi­cials when asked by the court to ex­plain her role in the cri­sis.

In his af­fi­davit, Dan­gor said Dlamini chaired a meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 5 last year at which the “work-stream” lead­ers she ap­pointed to pre­pare for Sassa’s takeover of the pay­ment sys­tem pre­sented a progress re­port.

“The pre­sen­ta­tion in­di­cated that lit­tle work had been done. The most sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment of their pro­posal was the rec­om­men­da­tion that CPS be given a new con­tract for a pe­riod of two years.”

He said Dlamini had raised two con­cerns: that there might be le­gal chal­lenges to a new con­tract with CPS and this might de­lay the pay­ment of grants; and that a new con­tract might be “a po­lit­i­cal mine­field and im­moral”. This was in the con­text of “emerg­ing ev­i­dence that CPS was in­volved in im­moral and/or il­le­gal de­duc­tions from the ac­counts of grant re­cip­i­ents”.

At a fur­ther meet­ing on Oc­to­ber 22 there was still no firm plan for the takeover of the pay­ment sys­tem. By then it was clear that – be­cause of the “par­al­lel re­port­ing struc­ture” Dlamini had set up in which the work-stream lead­ers re­ported di­rectly to her – Mag­waza and his team knew lit­tle about their work and “were ex­cluded from the key de­ci­sion-mak­ing process”, Dan­gor said.

Last week, Mag­waza also filed an af­fi­davit dis­put­ing Dlamini’s state­ments.

Thokozani Mag­waza

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