Bathabile Dlamini puts women's league before Sassa talks: opposition


ANC Womens League President Bathabile Dlamini has condemned the unrest in Tshwane.

JOHANNESBURG – Political parties were up in arms on Wednesday, over Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini’s trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she is reportedly attending the two-day AU Summit.

Dlamini’s visit raised the ire of opposition parties because the portfolio committee on social development had to cancel an important meeting to get an update on the progress her department made in taking over the distribution of social grants.

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The Constitutional Court recently set out guidelines that the Department of Social Development should be responsible for the payout of millions of rands to grant beneficiaries and no longer rely on their service provider NET1/CPS.

This put the department under pressure following evidence that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) is not ready to take over the distribution of 17 million grants by the April 1 deadline.

The DA's social development spokesperson, Bridget Masango, accused Dlamini of travelling to the AU on ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) business and shunning her ministerial duties.

“It is shameful that Dlamini would rather attend to party business than make herself available for an important parliamentary committee meeting on the distribution of social grants by Sassa,” Masango said.

“It is now becoming increasingly obvious why the chairperson of the portfolio committee rushed to cancel this important meeting, which was scheduled to take place today.”

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Masango said the DA would seek an urgent explanation from the chief executive of Sassa and also write to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, urging him to remind members of the executive that they have important responsibilities in Parliament.

The IFP also added its voice, saying that it was dismayed by yet another cancellation of a critical Sassa briefing to the portfolio committee on social development at Parliament on Wednesday.

IFP spokesperson on social development, Liezl van der Merwe, said MPs were informed that Dlamini was set to attend the ANC’s party lekgotla and would therefore not be available for such a briefing.

“However, it now transpires that the minister might have misled Parliament and is in fact abroad, attending to ANC business,” Van der Merwe said.

Van der Merwe said that the minister’s no-show at Parliament today was an indication that this looming national crisis was of no interest to her.

“It is also patently clear that the minister has absolutely no plan to mitigate the crisis. Considering her conduct in dealing with this matter, it is also clear that she is no longer fit to be the minister of social development,” she said.

The ANCWL on Tuesday confirmed that it would launch task team and a young women’s desk in Addis Ababa this week under Dlamini’s leadership after being inundated with requests from South African women in the diaspora.

However, interim Social Development spokesperson Bathembu Futshane dismissed the allegations as "baseless", saying that Dlamini was on official government business at AU’s invitation.

“The minister is currently attending an official trip, a sitting of the AU in Addis. She was invited there on behalf of the Department of Social Development,” Futshane said.

“The approval was given by the president and we have confirmation in writing to prove it. It is, therefore, not true that. The minister is due back in the country tomorrow.”

The Presidency’s spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga was not immediately available for comment.