Ducking questions around her handling of the Sassa payment crisis‚ which affects 17 million grant beneficiaries‚ Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini yesterday chose to climb into journalists who she believes represent a “monopoly capital agenda”.
Dlamini was speaking at the Cape Sun Hotel in Cape Town‚ where a jovial crowd dressed in ANC colours welcomed her with song.
“Thank you for coming‚” she said. “Since this started we’ve been talking to papers but the important people are the poor – the recipients of the state grants.”
She said her department had invited advocacy groups‚ faithbased organisations and traditional leaders who could appropriately convey the message that grants would be paid on April 1.
On Sunday, Dlamini lost her cool with a journalist during a media briefing.
She refused to answer a number of questions related to why the department and the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) wanted to continue dealing with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS)‚ whose contract with Sassa was declared to be invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2015.
The contract will lapse on March 31. However‚ a new deal with CPS and the department is on the table.
The department has said it plans to continue using CPS over the next two years to pay the grant recipients‚ although a deal has not yet been signed.
“Yesterday was very sad‚” Dlamini said, referring to Sunday’s media briefing.
“Journalists from black communities were taking notes for their communities. Others came with a different agenda. They represented their bosses.
“We plead with you to take the message forward that on April 1 you [will] receive your grants.”
Dlamini was criticised at the weekend by parliament’s public spending watchdog, which stopped just short of calling for her resignation.
It was reported that a statement by standing committee on public accounts chairman Themba Godi came just hours after the resignation of Dlamini’s director-general‚ Zane Dangor‚ who said he had quit due to “a breakdown in the relationship between myself and [Dlamini] on the management of the processes towards ensuring grants are paid”.
Godi said Dangor was one of many officials in the department and Sassa who had been frustrated by Dlamini’s interference in Sassa’s administrative matters.
“Clearly‚ the CPS contract negotiations have been handled to the disadvantage of the state and grant recipients‚ especially around the issue of deductions, which have been a major thorn for recipients,” Godi said.
“The minister must now take full responsibility for this. The department is clearly falling apart.
“As Scopa‚ we are looking forward to meeting with the minister [today] so that all these matters can be fully ventilated.
“Scopa cannot be quiet or indifferent to these levels of mismanagement‚ which create unease and anxiety in the nation‚ and come at a huge financial cost to the state.”