Ralph Mathekga

The big Sassa heist

2017-03-13 08:28
Bathabile Dlamini appears before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts Picture: Gallo Images

Bathabile Dlamini appears before Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts Picture: Gallo Images

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South Africa seems to be experiencing a surge in terms of the number of cash heists taking place right in front of our eyes.

A few days ago the nation woke up to reports that some brave individuals pulled off a robbery at OR Tambo International Airport, without having to fire a single shot. It is alleged that the robbery, which involved a yet to be fully disclosed amount of cash, was carried out by people who were dressed as police officers.

Another cash heist is underway as I write this article. This one involves people dressed up as public servants, probably with their name tags in full display. The heist is more elaborate than the one at OR Tambo and it is also carried out right in front of our eyes.

Even more daring about this heist is that the perpetrators also want the Constitutional Court to give them a go ahead to raid the public coffers in the name of delivering social grant payments to 17 million vulnerable beneficiaries.

I am referring to the Sassa cash heist where politicians, in collaboration with some public servants, have engineered a crisis that would necessitate an intervention that has been fully thought out prior.

Unlike the OR Tambo heist, which we only knew about after it happened because we were not privy to the entire planning process, the Sassa heist has been planned and executed in plain sight, leaving many surprised as to how daring the perpetrators have become.

With the Sassa heist, the kingpin, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, has led a deliberate scheme that involves omissions, lies and the defiance of a court judgement.

When the court ruled a few years ago that the tender to dispense social grants was irregularly awarded and should be corrected over a period of time, Dlamini’s department went straight to undermining the court’s judgement by avoiding doing anything that could have the tender taken away from the controversial company, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

The reason why the court did not cancel the tender when it delivered the damning judgement back then is because the payment of grants is an essential service that may not be interrupted.

Dlamini and fellow associates saw this firstly as an opportunity to do nothing about an illegally awarded contract operated by CPS. Secondly, Dlamini saw an opportunity to carefully engineer a crisis that would ultimately make it necessary for the illegality to continue beyond the contracted period. All it took to arrive at the situation where CPS would need to continue dispensing grants as an emergency plan was for Dlamini to simply do nothing and wait for the crisis to brew on its own.

To get the crisis to brew to maturity, Dlamini added a bit of yeast to the formula. This was done by approaching the court with the aim of convincing it that the department is sitting on an emergency regarding how to pay social grants from the 1st of April following the end of the CPS contract. In this way, the court would have to make a concession and allow CPS to milk us further for a bit. After all, the company has been milking South Africa since its tender was declared illegal.

The Constitutional Court is now being set up nicely with an unwinnable scenario. If it insists that CPS cannot be involved further even on an emergency basis, then there will be a major disruption in the distribution of grants because Dlamini‘s people have deliberately avoided setting up a Plan B on this.

Without any Plan B, a decision by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to do away with CPS immediately will have a disastrous effect. The end game is to feed Mogoeng to the hostile public opinion about any decision that would stop the payment of grants. Grant beneficiaries will be very upset, and they won’t care that it is the department that has failed to remedy the situation.

Until more information comes out regarding how the OR Tambo cash heist has been planned and executed, the Sassa heist remains at the top when it comes to planning, patience and execution.

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

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