Everything was fine until SASSA CEO started his job‚ Bathabile Dlamini claims

Everything was fine until SASSA CEO started his job‚ Bathabile Dlamini claims.
Everything was fine until SASSA CEO started his job‚ Bathabile Dlamini claims.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini is adamant that the measures she put in place to deal with the social grants crisis were "diligent and competent" – until SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) chief executive Thokozani Magwaza assumed the position.

This is despite Geoff Budlender SC‚ acting on behalf of the Black Sash Trust‚ putting it to her that these work streams were "unlawful and irregular".

The exchange took place on Tuesday during an inquiry into the SASSA debacle.

Dlamini disagreed with Budlender.

"Those people were competent and diligent. I've not fought or taken any different decisions with previous CEOs‚ but now there is a comment that I have the sole responsibility of SASSA‚" Dlamini said‚ directing her response to her unsavoury relationship with Magwaza.

She told the inquiry that problems regarding the operation of the work streams started when Magwaza assumed the position of chief executive.

"There were no hiccups. Problems started when Magwaza became CEO. He had agreed to the establishment of the work streams when he was DG [Director General]."

Dlamini also accused Magwaza of telling one of his colleagues that he would terminate the contracts of the leaders of the work streams once he took the position of chief executive.

Budlender pressed Dlamini on why she had failed to include in her affidavit to the Constitutional Court her role in the formation of the work streams.

Dlamini was adamant that it was not necessary for her to inform the court about this.

"You did not tell the Concourt the truth about the work streams because you wanted to shift the blame to Mr Magwaza‚" Budlender told Dlamini.

Budlender also told Dlamini that she had no legal power to do take over SASSA's operational matters by establishing the work streams.

"You do not have the power to run SASSA‚" Budlender said.

But Dlamini shot back: "The court said it clearly that when it comes to the work of SASSA‚ the buck stops with me."

The Constitutional Court last year ordered that an inquiry be established to set out Dlamini’s roles and responsibilities as social development minister. The court found that it could not make an “adverse” order against the minister on the basis of allegations that have not been tested.

The court ordered that all parties involved in the matter appoint a judge to investigate whether Dlamini should be held liable for the grants saga.

Retired judge Bernard Ngoepe has since been appointed to head the inquiry.

The Black Sash Trust approached the court in March after SASSA acknowledged it would not be able to pay millions of grants from April 1‚ despite promising the court in November 2015 it would do so.

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