Paul Herman

Dlamini, Magwaza and what to do about Sassa

2017-05-18 10:13
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

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Conflicting views and no clear direction.

That seems to be the prevailing message coming out of the South African Social Security Agency in its pending takeover of the national social grants scheme.

It's been two months to the week since the Constitutional Court ruled that Sassa has one more year to get out of its invalid contract with Cash Paymaster Services.

With the clock ticking, the wheel is turning, but very slowly.

A visibly frustrated Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza had to defend his entity's progress before Scopa MPs on Tuesday.

A proposed workshop with the Post Office this week seemed like a step in the right direction, but he couldn't provide more answers.

“It’s the details we need,” said Scopa chairperson Themba Godi.

“Those are details we don’t have,” replied Magwaza. He would file a report in two weeks after their meeting, ahead of their first ConCourt report due in June.

To make matters worse, the entity's administrative budget is now at risk after it failed to submit an updated annual performance plan to Parliament's portfolio committee this week.

The portfolio committee on social development is due to debate the budget on Thursday, but without a performance plan that takes into account the ConCourt ruling, they now have to ask Speaker Baleka Mbete for a special extension.

And what choice does she have; without a passed budget vote, there is no legal basis for Sassa to spend it's administrative money (this won't affect grants money, luckily).

The icing on the cake has to be the public contradictions coming from Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Magwaza.

The pair have had a frosty relationship since Magwaza filed papers to the ConCourt in March suggesting Dlamini was deliberately gunning to keep CPS on board.

He has since found some strength within his portfolio as a result, but being at constant loggerheads with his political principal does not bode well for a working relationship that has a ten-month clock on it.

Dlamini claimed last week that the entity needed R6bn and at least five years for Sassa to fully take control of the grants scheme.

CPS will be phased out within the one year deadline, she agreed, but as for everything else, they need triple the budget they currently give CPS and half a decade to upskill Sassa staff, who she claims have virtually no skills.

Magwaza disagreed immediately.

"I don't believe it will have to take five years. I believe we can do it within two to three years.

"If we encounter hiccups, we are giving us a maximum of five years."

There will be an interim period though, with the Post Office hopefully coming on board, he explained.

When Scopa quizzed him about the R6bn fee, he said:

"I don't know where that R6bn figure has come from.

"As Sassa, we have not sat down to discuss what we need, and that's all I'm going to say about it."

Godi shielded him from answering more questions on it, saying it could make his work conditions untenable if he went against his political principal. But if the back-and-forth is what we can expect to come, then perhaps it's best the nation prepares for another round of March Madness come 2018, as lawyers once again try to sweep up the mess.

One thing is certain though: there are ten months to go, and the clock is ticking.

Is it too much to ask to get the minister and her CEO on the same page for how they are handling this transition?

- Paul Herman is a journalist at News24. He covers Parliament and politics.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  sassa  |  scopa

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