South Africa

SassaGate: Bathabile Dlamini admits she failed to inform ConCourt promptly about Sassa deadline delay

By News24 25 January 2018

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has been accused of intentionally failing to inform the Constitutional Court that Sassa would not meet its court-appointed deadline to withdraw its contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). By NEWS24.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini knew as early as October 2016 that Sassa would not meet the Constitutional Court’s deadline to withdraw its contract with CPS.

Dlamini admitted this while under cross-examination on Thursday at the Office of the Chief Justice during an inquiry into her personal role in the social security agency crisis.

The inquiry is also investigating whether she should be held liable personally for costs incurred during the crisis in 2016/17.

During questioning, senior counsel Vincent Maleka, who is representing former Sassa director general Zane Dangor, said Dlamini was warned that the agency would not meet its March deadline.

The Constitutional Court had found that its contract with CPS, the company in charge of distributing its grants was unlawful. The court gave Sassa until March 2017 to find an alternative option for distribution.

Maleka, however, argued that Dlamini knew as early as October 2016 that Sassa would not meet the court deadline.

He said Dangor had indicated to Dlamini that the Sassa grant crisis would have a negative effect on her politically and on the country’s ruling party, the ANC.

Maleka said Dangor had also made proposals to mitigate the problem, including a request to the court that it continues with a short-term contract with CPS.

Mr Dangor was clear that you have to inform the [Constitutional Court], but Sassa did not approach the court immediately to inform the court of the delay,” Maleka put it to Dlamini.

She admitted that she had failed to inform the courts immediately after Dangor’s warning. However, she defended her action, saying that they first had to rearrange the work phase and streamline their work.

In December 2016, then CEO Thokozani Magwaza signed an affidavit to submit to the Constitutional Court which (affidavit) stated that the social security agency would not meet its March 2017 deadline, but Dlamini withdrew it, Maleka said.

Dlamini responded that she withdrew the affidavit because it was “arrogant”.

We needed to own up and accept responsibility in court,” she added.

The Constitutional Court appointed Judge Bernard Ngoepe to head the inquiry to investigate whether Dlamini sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various “workstreams” to report directly to her.

The three workstreams – which were information and business management, banking services and project management, legislative and policy requirements management, and benefits and local economic development – appeared to exist parallel to the function of the department and Sassa.

The leaders of these workstreams acted as advisers to Dlamini before they were appointed to lead the workstreams – which was said to be illegal and irregular.

The Constitutional Court also ordered the inquiry to investigate the detail, including when the people were appointed, who they reported to, and details of the dates and contents of the workstreams’ report to the minister.

Last, the inquiry is looking into why the minister did not disclose this information to the Constitutional Court. DM

Photo: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini at a media briefing by the Interministerial Committee on Immigration, Tshedimosetso House in Hatfield, Pretoria. (28 April 2015, Pretoria)

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