For­mer Sassa CEO ‘put in his place’

Ousted so­cial grants boss in­sists that he didn’t over­step his bound­aries, but of­fi­cials say he was go­ing to sink the coun­try

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The choice of the ve­hi­cle that gov­ern­ment will use to pay so­cial grants to the poor and dis­abled should be an op­er­a­tional de­ci­sion, not a po­lit­i­cal one. This is ac­cord­ing to for­mer SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) Thokozani Mag­waza, who spoke out this week amid claims that he sought to un­der­mine his for­mer boss and dic­tate pol­icy.

Bound by a nondis­clo­sure clause since his sud­den exit on Mon­day, Mag­waza told City

Press that he could not com­ment in de­tail, but said he had al­ways been clear that So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini had the lat­i­tude to de­ter­mine the pol­icy di­rec­tion for


How­ever, he in­sisted that the pay­ment of grants and the mech­a­nism used to achieve that was a pro­cure­ment de­ci­sion guided by the Pub­lic Fi­nance Man­age­ment Act and there­fore the process fell squarely within his man­date as the ac­count­ing of­fi­cer.

“This is op­er­a­tional and noth­ing else. It is the day-to­day run­ning of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and there­fore it can­not be a pol­icy mat­ter to pay grants,” he said. “I have never dis­puted the is­sue of pol­icy. But the min­is­ter must con­cen­trate on the pol­icy side and leave the day-to-day run­ning to the ac­count­ing of­fi­cer.”

Mag­waza had widely been por­trayed as the main ob­sta­cle be­tween politi­cians’ al­leged scheme to loot the so­cial grants ten­der by im­pos­ing their close as­so­ciates as part of the deal. This has irked Dlamini’s al­lies both in­side and out­side of gov­ern­ment, who have ac­cused him of be­ing “a law unto him­self” and rid­ing on the neg­a­tive cor­rup­tion nar­ra­tive around the min­is­ter and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as head of gov­ern­ment.

A gov­ern­ment in­sider said Mag­waza “was a prob­lem and he re­mains a prob­lem, which is why the min­is­ter had to find some­one who will do that task”. He said “the kind of animal that will re­place the cur­rent con­tract with Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices (CPS) must, at a pol­icy Should the min­is­ter be in­volved in the sys­tem used to pay grants? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word SASSA and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 level, be de­fined by Dlamini and not Mag­waza”. The CPS con­tract ex­pires next April as per the Con­sti­tu­tional Court or­der is­sued in March.

The in­sider said Mag­waza wanted to tell the min­is­ter what to do and had on sev­eral oc­ca­sions been asked to ex­plain “who de­ter­mines pol­icy”. “There have been in­ter­de­part­men­tal meet­ings that said Dlamini should de­fine pol­icy, how it should be and what it should be. Mag­waza was de­fy­ing Dlamini left, right and cen­tre, caus­ing con­fu­sion and havoc at Sassa. He is be­ing praised as a hero, but he was a ma­jor prob­lem.” City Press was in­formed that Mag­waza had favoured the SA Post Of­fice (Sapo) to take over from CPS, while Dlamini pre­ferred “a hy­brid model” that in­volved com­mer­cial banks, lo­cal mer­chants, Sapo and “state agen­cies of rel­e­vance”. Trea­sury of­fi­cials said Mag­waza had writ­ten to Trea­sury ask­ing to con­done de­vi­a­tions from pro­ce­dures so that Sapo could get the con­tract. “And that has not come to light be­cause Sapo does not have ca­pac­ity,” a source said.

He said the of­fi­cial pol­icy was that the ca­pac­ity to pay grants must be built in-house, but you have to use a hy­brid model in the in­terim. “The tem­po­rary model will in­volve banks, re­tail­ers and Sapo. That is where the de­ci­sion is at and Mag­waza wanted to go the route of Sapo alone. He was go­ing to sink the coun­try.”

The source said that, at an in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee meet­ing held in Cape Town last month, be­fore Par­lia­ment went to re­cess, Mag­waza had been ex­plic­itly in­structed to follow Dlamini’s pol­icy di­rec­tion on the so­cial grants pay­ment plan.

“And in the dis­cus­sion, he could not sus­tain his ar­gu­ment be­cause he was told it was not his space.” The source said: “Mag­waza was put in his place be­cause other de­part­ments were clear that he was caus­ing con­fu­sion. The pol­icy is set by the prin­ci­pal [Dlamini]. He is un­der­min­ing Dlamini on pol­icy mat­ters. You can­not be the CEO and do as you please.”

He said “the in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee meet­ing had agreed on a hy­brid and that is what Mag­waza was sup­posed to be working to­wards, but he was not do­ing that and in­stead went the route of Sapo”. He said the Re­serve Bank had in­formed Sapo that the laws had to be aligned be­fore it could op­er­ate as a bank.

Mag­waza con­firmed the Cape Town meet­ing, but de­nied that he was ever “put in his place on any­thing by any­body at any given time”. “I was never put in my place be­cause I have never dis­puted the is­sue of the min­is­ter’s ju­ris­dic­tion on pol­icy. The is­sue of pol­icy never even arose and we dealt with the re­port, pre­par­ing the in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee meet­ing on what is go­ing to be in the re­port to court,” he said.

A Dlamini ally said: “The min­is­ter was be­ing tar­geted for Mag­waza’s exit be­cause the en­vi­ron­ment is politi­cised. Those who want Zuma and Dlamini out of power try to make her look the worst.” He said Sapo did not have a bank­ing li­cence, although it had ap­plied.

“Cur­rently, it is a de­posit-tak­ing in­sti­tu­tion. Come next April, if they do not have a li­cence, they can­not as­sist. “Sapo has many short­com­ings, but the min­is­ter is pre­pared to in­clude it, to­gether with banks and lo­cal mer­chants.”

For ex­am­ple, he said, Sapo had 2 800 branches and Sassa had 10 000 pay points. “So, how can they de­liver grants be­cause those pay points need to be cov­ered equally?”

He said that, by law, the min­is­ter had “an over­ar­ch­ing role over Sassa and can over­rule any de­ci­sion made by the CEO”. “Peo­ple turn a blind eye on the over­ar­ch­ing pow­ers that she has by leg­is­la­tion. She has leg­is­lated pow­ers and when this thing falls apart, the law does not look at the CEO, but at the min­is­ter.”


HARD-KNOCK LIFE A pen­sioner holds his Sassa card dur­ing grant col­lec­tion in Mpumalanga

Thokozani Mag­waza

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