Social security staff reprimanded

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The KwaZulu-Natal MEC for social welfare, Meshack Hadebe, has announced that his department will cut ties with the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and kick its staff out of the department's offices for its failure to deliver services.

Sassa is responsible for providing administrative support in the registration of pensioners and grant recipients.

Hadebe, who yesterday led a delegation of senior officials visiting social welfare offices in Pietermaritzburg, vowed to clamp down on corruption and fraud and said those offices under scrutiny would be shut down with immediate effect.

Last week pensioners and the sick marched on the Pietermaritzburg offices of the social welfare department complaining about poor service delivery, abusive treatment, fraud and corruption.

Hadebe said similar complaints had been received from other welfare pay-out points and offices throughout the province.

At a special meeting at the Pietermaritzburg offices Hadebe told staff that the relationship between the Welfare Department and Sassa had hit "rock bottom" and that the two parties would part ways.

Tempers flared at the meeting, with Hadebe coming down hard on what he called "arrogance and blatant disrespect".

"Our agreement with Sassa was that they would help our department to provide excellent service to senior citizens and the sick, but what is happening is the complete opposite," he said.

"People are being treated badly and exploited, and I can't let that happen. The buck stops with me in the province and I will act in the best interests of our senior citizens and the poor."

Sassa staff exchanged harsh words with Hadebe in full view of the media and other officials, leaving Hadebe livid.

"If you show such arrogance towards me as an MEC, one wonders how you treat those old pensioners," he said.

"There's arrogance in this office and I am going to deal with you. I take strong exception to what is happening here and in other offices in the province."

Hadebe said after reporting to the premier, he would meet with the acting chief executive of Sassa and the director-general from the national office of Social Welfare.

He said in areas such as Kranskop, Pinetown, iZingolweni, Central Durban and Maphumulo, agency staff would be fired.

He also spoke to people who had queued outside waiting to get help and promised them a "shake-up".

Wilson Mshengu, 62, who was among those outside, complained about a doctor's negligence.

"I have been suffering from asthma and arthritis since 1962, but the doctor just looked at me and told me to throw away my medication and look for work," said Mshengu.

Cuba Mhaye, a spokesman for Sassa, said he was not aware of any meeting between the acting chief executive and Hadebe.