Dlamini to be quizzed by former Sassa CEO

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File: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini will defend herself at the inquiry.

JOHANNESBURG - Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini faces cross-examination from her two former technocrats on Wednesday at the Constitutional Court-mandated commission of inquiry in Johannesburg.

The commission chairman, retired Justice Barnard Ngoepe, ruled that former SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Thokozani Magwaza and Dlamini’s former adviser Zane Dangor may cross-examine the minister and put across their version of events. This was after Seena Yacoob, the lawyer for Freedom Under Law, told the inquiry on Tuesday that it was important that Ngoepe hear from the two witnesses.

Both Magwaza and Dangor resigned after a fallout with Dlamini as the social grants debacle raged on. Magwaza even filed an affidavit in the Constitutional Court disputing Dlamini’s claims in court that sought to lay the blame on the Sassa executives.

READ: CPS slaps Sassa with R1bn bill

The former CEO said the affidavit was his personal account to “set the record straight” that Dlamini knew as far back as July 2015  that Sassa would not able to take over the grant payments. He accused Dlamini of interfering in Sassa plans to take over from Cash Paymaster Service (CPS).

Dangor resigned as the Social Development Department’s director-general in March 2017, just four months after his appointment in November 2016. He said at the time he had resigned because of a “complete breakdown in the relationship between him and the minister over the payment of social grants and the legal requirements obliged by Sassa”.

The inquiry into Dlamini’s role in the social grants debacle commenced on Monday in Johannesburg at the instruction of the highest court in the land.

The commission is probing whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for legal costs incurred in the social grants debacle.

During the grants crisis the rights groups Black Sash and Freedom Under Law took the department to the Constitutional Court to ensure that more than 17 million beneficiaries continued to receive grants, after the court ruled in 2014 that the CPS contract to dispense grants was invalid.

In March 2017, the Constitutional Court ordered that CPS continue to pay grants for a further 12 months, after it was found that Sassa was unable to meet the deadline and take over grant payments.