Cape Town - Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini did not appear for a crucial Parliamentary meeting on Wednesday to discuss her department's pending takeover of the nationwide social grants scheme.
Dlamini offered her apologies as she was attending a Cabinet lekgotla in Pretoria, the secretary of the social development committee told MPs.
DA MP Evelyn Wilson took issue with the fact that Dlamini, having cancelled the meeting last week to attend an ANC lekgotla, skipped Wednesday's meeting for another lekgotla.
"The fact that the minister is not present when we are bordering on a national disaster is not acceptable. She is the accounting authority.
"This committee cannot allow for party politics to take precedence. It's a damn disgrace."
The SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) was due to update the committee on its readiness to handle the grants of 17 million people on April 1.
Opposition parties wrote to committee chairperson Rose Capa on Tuesday to demand Dlamini be present on Wednesday.
IFP MP Liesl van de Merwe agreed with Wilson, saying the department had absolutely no contingency plan.
ANC MPs interjected, saying that Sassa officials were present and that they are ready to hear the presentations.
Apology not accepted
Capa said MPs would be given a chance to air their grievances at length, and that the committee was ready to discuss the issue.
She said MPs were aware that Wednesdays were "Cabinet day".
Wilson and Van der Merwe did not accept the apology.
Van der Merwe said Dlamini misled the committee after it was revealed that she was in Ethiopia on ANC Women's League duty last week, and not at the ANC lekgotla.
ANC MPs accepted Dlamini's apology. They said the meeting was cancelled last week because more than one committee member had to attend the lekgotla and not just the minister.
ANC MP Hope Malgas said she would be taking "no nonsense from Wilson today".
ANC MP Solomon Mabilo said they could not declare a crisis until Sassa made its presentation. He asked that sanity prevails.
There was an "agenda" to sidetrack the proceedings. He understood why opposition parties were concerned with the ANC because it was the ruling party.
“When the ANC sneezes, the whole country gets a cold,” he said.
Wilson laughed as he spoke.