President Jacob Zuma has defended his under fire Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini‚ insisting there is “no crisis” in her department.
Zuma also dismissed calls for her dismissal saying only in a “funny democracy” would a minister be punished for something that has not yet happened.
He played down the outrage around the social grants debacle‚ saying he was not prepared to evaluate “isphithiphiti” (commotion).
He said the outrage was premature and can only evaluate Dlamini’s performance after April 1‚ the day social grants are supposed to be paid.
Zuma was responding to a barrage of questions from opposition MPs on the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) social grants debacle in the National Assembly and whether he will take any action against Dlamini.
He said ministers have signed performance agreements and there are regular reports on performance.
“It’s a funny democracy to punish a person before they commit a mistake. April 1 has not come. Even as I speak‚ the Department of Social Development and Treasury are meeting. Only after the 1st (of April) you can ask why I have not taken action‚” said Zuma.
Zuma’s remarks came just two days after Cash Payment Services (CPS) chief executive Serge Belamant warned that grants won’t be paid should they fail to reach an agreement.
“This is another kind of democracy where you punish that person before it happens. It’s a funny democracy. It’s one thing if people raise the issue like we are likely to get into trouble‚ that things won’t be done. To act as if the 1st has come and grants have not been paid‚ I say it’s a funny democracy. there is not crisis‚” said Zuma.
He said taking action against Dlamini would be “almost like the law of the jungle”.
Zuma said the government “deeply regrets” the current situation.
“We will ensure that there is never again any apprehension with regards to the payments of social grants to our people‚” said Zuma.
He also distanced himself from his lawyer Michael Hulley’s direct involvement in the Sassa contract with CPS.
The session went without any serious disruptions owing to the entire Economic Freedom Fighters caucus’ absence from the House. They chose not to attend the sitting.
But United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa caused a commotion when he suggested that Zuma was lying about not being aware of “illegal deductions” of social grants.
“Why are you denying that money is being deducted? You are not being truthful. He’s not telling the truth‚” said Holomisa.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Liesl van der Merwe asked Zuma what steps he will take against Dlamini.
“This is about a rogue minister who ignored the constitutional court for three years. So I’m asking if you’re telling us you will take no steps against the minister? I forewarned exactly a year ago in this House about the illegal deductions‚” said Van Der Merwe.
She told Zuma that according to “rumours” in the ANC caucus‚ CPS was paying for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma’s campaign to be the next leader of the ANC.
“Will you now consider establishing commission of inquiry?” asked Van Der Merwe.
Freedom Front Plus MP Corne Mulder said South Africa was “not a funny democracy”.
“Your answer is funny. The question we asked is what are you doing as head of executive to ensure that minister is held accountable?” asked Mulder.
On new MP Brian Molefe and his implication in the State of Capture report‚ Zuma said allegations “are not convictions”.
“Allegations are allegations‚” said Zuma.