Dlamini blames Magwaza at SASSA hearing

Judge scolds Minister of Social Development for evasive answers

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Photo of people at Dlamini inquiry
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini is facing a five-day inquiry into her role in the failure of SASSA to meet a deadline set by the Constitutional Court to hand over the social grant payment system. Photo: Zoë Postman

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, blamed former South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Thokozani Magwaza’s “lack of communication” for the delay in implementing “critical” tasks which led to the social grant crisis last year.

Dlamini was testifying at a five-day inquiry at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand. Last June the Constitutional Court ordered this inquiry into Dlamini’s role in the social grant crisis. This was because in October 2015, SASSA promised the Constitutional Court that it would take over the payments of social grants by 1 April 2017 but it failed to meet this deadline. The inquiry started on Monday, chaired by retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe.

Richard Solomon, the advocate representing Magwaza, cross-examined Dlamini on whether she had set up “workstreams” to deal with the social grant payment system that “bypassed SASSA officials”. This is what Magwaza claimed in a letter to the Constitutional Court in April last year.

Solomon said that Dlamini took “ownership and direct control” of the workstreams. “The [SASSA Executive Committee] was marginalised by you taking direct control of the implementation process. Would you like to respond to this?” Solomon asked.

Dlamini responded: “When it came to signing the papers, Miss Petersen [the interim CEO of SASSA], Mr Magwaza and myself signed off on the workstreams so I don’t know why all the blame is being put on me.”

Solomon then asked Dlamini whether she stuck to her affidavit which stated that Magwaza failed to communicate “comprehensively” with her during a critical time between November 2016 and March 2017.

After Dlamini had failed several times to answer Solomon’s question, a frustrated Judge Ngoepe stepped in: “Minister, if a statement is put to you, please speak to it directly. Otherwise it will be put on the record that you avoided the question and started speaking about something else. If they [the advocates] want more information, let them ask you for it.”

Dlamini said she understood and confirmed with her affidavit that Magwaza had not communicated with her comprehensively.

“What kind of communication did you expect from Magwaza, seeing as how you created and appointed the workstreams and Magwaza only started as CEO in November 2016?” asked Solomon.

Dlamini responded: “For example, he was supposed to communicate what was to be included in the affidavit [submitted to the court] which I later had to withdraw”.

Vincent Maleka, advocate representing former SASSA Director General Zane Dangor, started his cross-examination towards the end of proceedings.

The inquiry continues on Thursday with Maleka leading the cross-examination.

TOPICS:  SASSA Inquiry Social Grants

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