Did he jump or was he pushed?

Sassa chief quits af­ter death threats and clashes with min­is­ter

The Times (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - ERNEST MABUZA

‘ Ev­ery­body would have been much bet­ter off if the min­is­ter, and not the CEO, had re­signed

SASSA CEO Thokozani Mag­waza has re­signed af­ter death threats and pub­lic clashes with So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini, rais­ing ques­tions over whether he may have been pushed out of the grant pro­vi­sion agency.

Mag­waza’s res­ig­na­tion, af­ter a year at the helm of the SA So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency, came within hours of a strongly worded state­ment by par­lia­ment’s stand­ing com­mit­tee on pub­lic ac­counts chair­man Thembi Godi.

He called on govern­ment to pro­tect Mag­waza from the “brazen law­less­ness by a crim­i­nal gang of rent seek­ers who want to in­tim­i­date Mr Mag­waza out of his job”.

The com­mit­tee said it was “shock­ing” that Dlamini “has not said a word or stood in sol­i­dar­ity with Mag­waza, thus mak­ing him feel he is on his own”.

Dlamini and Mag­waza had clashed pub­licly over how the de­part­ment han­dled the con­tro­ver­sial Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices con­tract and sub­se­quent court case.

Mag­waza also re­cently can­celled “work streams” set up by the min­is­ter to find the best so­lu­tion for the pay­ment of grants af­ter Trea­sury in­di­cated R47-mil- lion spent on them was ir­reg­u­lar.

Mag­waza is likely to tes­tify against Dlamini in a pub­lic hear­ing set up to probe whether she should be li­able for the costs of the pay­ment cri­sis.

Mag­waza’s de­par­ture was an­nounced in a short e-mail state­ment in which the de­part­ment thanked him and wished him well.

He would not com­ment on why he left and de­part­ment spokesman Lumka Oliphant would not say who would re­place him.

Godi said Mag­waza’s de­par­ture could not have come at a worse

time as Sassa had un­til March 2018 to en­sure it had re­placed the CPS con­tract with an in­ter­nal sys­tem.

“Mr Mag­waza is hardly a year in of­fice. He has left at the time when we were man­ag­ing the tran­si­tion from Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices to the South African Post Of­fice. We think this should not have hap­pened for the sake of sta­bil­ity.”

Ear­lier, Godi said he had a long dis­cus­sion with Mag­waza about the al­leged death threats.

David Lewis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cor­rup­tion Watch, was con­cerned that Dlamini “failed to com­ment” on death threats against Mag­waza. He said Mag­waza had taken on the task of sort­ing out the mess at Sassa.

“Ev­ery­body would have been much bet­ter off if the min­is­ter, and not the CEO, had re­signed. He had to re­sign be­cause of the im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion he was in as long as she was min­is­ter. She has worked to un­der­mine Sassa.”

Lewis said Mag­waza was lead­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Post Of­fice to take over the pay­ment of the grants from Cash Pay­mas­ter Ser­vices.

“We would be en­ti­tled to ask whether he had been pres­surised to re­sign to de­rail those ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Lewis said.

The Or­gan­i­sa­tion Un­do­ing Tax Abuse (Outa) has also ques­tioned the cir­cum­stances lead­ing to Mag­waza’s de­par­ture.

“We read into this de­vel­op­ment that he was pushed out af­ter his work en­vi­ron­ment was made un­bear­able with death threats, the ten­sion with min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini, Mag­waza’s clo­sure of the min­is­ter’s lu­cra­tive work streams and his at­tempts to get the Post Of­fice to take over the so­cial grants de­liv­ery,” says Do­minique Msibi, Outa port­fo­lio di­rec­tor.

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