Critics 'naïve' on Sassa meeting cancellation - committee chair

(Supplied)
(Supplied)

Cape Town - Criticism of the cancellation of the South Africa Social Security Agency's (Sassa) scheduled meeting to update Parliament on its readiness to take over the social grants scheme is "naïve", the portfolio committee chairperson says.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza were due to present to the portfolio committee on social development on Wednesday, but their appearance was cancelled on Monday.

Portfolio committee chairperson Rose Capa told News24 that the meeting was cancelled as Dlamini, Magwaza and herself were also expected to attend an ANC lekgotla this week.

"It is unfortunate that all those people were [also] supposed to be in the lekgotla," she said on Wednesday.

The DA on Monday strongly criticised the cancellation of the meeting, saying the ANC was "putting party business over 17 million citizens".

Capa though, said the ANC is the ruling party, and the grants issue requires policy input.

"I'm very sorry, but if I'm honest, they [the critics] are naïve," she said.

Reports being prepared for lekgotla

"The ANC is not just any political party; it is the ruling party. It is going there [to the lekgotla] to actually report on progress done in preparation for the president to address the nation.

"There are very important policy issues relating to this issue of Sassa. It's not just administrative. It's more political than administrative."

She said reports regarding many topics were being prepared for the lekgotla, and the issue of the social grants scheme would be included in those reports.

President Jacob Zuma depends on ministers and other public office bearers to update him on their work, she added.

Capa said they are hoping the meeting can be rearranged possibly for next week, but it may prove difficult as it will be oversight week in Parliament then, a period when MPs are expected to visit their constituencies.

She did not want to be drawn on whether or not she was concerned with Sassa's general readiness, saying she wants to wait until the department briefs the committee to make a judgement.

April deadline looming

"We are approaching the deadline, but all we need is to get the department to fully brief us on their state of readiness.

"If that state of readiness has a few wobbles here and there, [then] we may begin to panic," Capa said.

"But for now, the CFO assured that those South Africans who depend on grants, will have their payments which [are] due to them.

"What we don't know is the details, but we have a commitment they will be paid, and I'm sure they will."

In April 2014, the Constitutional Court tasked the social development department with taking over payments of social grants from current service provider Cash Paymaster Services on April 1. This was due to irregular tender processes in appointing CPS.

Dlamini's actions 'shameful'

The DA, meanwhile, has criticised Minister Dlamini for allegedly flying to Ethiopa this week on ANC Women's League business.

"This is despite the need for an urgent update on what progress her department has made in taking over the distribution of social grants ahead of the 1 April 2017 deadline," DA MP Bridget Masango said in a statement.

"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."

Social development spokespersons Lumka Oliphant and Justice Malapane were unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Sassa spokesperson Paseka Letsatsi said only the department could provide comment on the issue.

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