From Dlamini 'gifting' 2019 to opposition to DA 'dreaming' - MPs spar

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (File, Netwerk24)
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (File, Netwerk24)

Cape Town - A rowdy and feisty debate on the department of social development's budget saw Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini's competence take centre stage.

"Minister Dlamini is the gift that keeps on giving," declared a jubilant DA MP Evelyn Wilson during the two-hour debate on Thursday.

"Thanks to this minister, the Sassa debacle, CPS shenanigans, she is slowly giving the Union Buildings to the DA on a silver platter."

This sparked the ire of the ANC benches in the Old Assembly Chamber, many of whom leaped up on various points of order.

"Can you tell the member to stop shouting chair?" one ANC MP said.

Wilson shot back saying the ANC should get used to jumping and shouting, as they will be in the opposition benches come 2019.

ANC MPs stood up again, and said Wilson was "hurting their eardrums".

"What are the people in this department actually doing?" she continued.

She described how Dlamini spent R16m in international travel, and a R105m on local travel in the last financial year.

"She jets off with no less than seven officials in tow, and has also spent R1.8m on two ministerial cars."

Data protection, confusion

The back-and-forth typified the tone of the debate for most of its two hours.

Dlamini opened proceedings by declaring her department's R160bn would be spent on continuing to build social cohesion and helping the most vulnerable.

She apologised again to the nation for the "confusion" around the social grants debacle, saying a new service provider will be phased in from November 2017.

They accept the supervision of the Constitutional Court, she said.

"You have no choice," shouted IFP MP Mkuleko Hlengwa.

"We have over the past years made great strides in improving Sassa's efficiency," she continued.

"What efficiency?" opposition MPs shouted.

"Data security and integrity are essential aspects of our payment solution. In this regard we are building a robust data system, to protect beneficiary information."

"Too late!" the shouts rang out again.

"It's not too late," she bit back.

We will continue to seek the assistance of industry experts when we take over the grants system.

"CPS?" DA deputy chief whip Mike Waters sarcastically chirped.

Dlamini took the bait again, and said, "Why don't they [DA] ratify the issues of toilets in Gugulethu?"

She said the doomsayers were actually hoping that people would not get their grants back in April.

"Those dividing us, what they want is for us to fight, but those in ANC, we know, we fight in order to agree," Dlamini finished defiantly

A packed gallery applauded as Dlamini finished her budget vote speech.

DA 'dreaming, tackling the man'

ANC MP Sibongile Tsoleli said the DA was dreaming about taking over power in 2019.

They failed to bring the Sassa saga to the portfolio committee's attention sooner, but they were too focussed on "tackling the man, not the ball".

"She's the accounting officer," Wilson shouted back from her seat.

Tsoleli said Dlamini did not need to give dignity to the responses they heard during the debate.

"It is a fact that we took over a very unusual system.

"We must bear in mind that there are no quick solutions, the socio-economic conditions run deep."

Cope MP Deidre Carter said Dlamini should never have been elevated to executive office.

"If you had any integrity, you would have tendered your resignation after that court judgment.”

Both Cope and the Economic Freedom Fighters did not support the budget.

"We won't allow this budget, because we know this minister will use this money to pay for her bodyguards and use the money to buy some cars," said the EFF's Khawula.

Sassa crisis 'far from over'

IFP MP Liesl van der Merwe had a word of warning for those in the room, saying during her speech, "This self-created crisis is far from over.

"As long as CPS is still on board, this crisis is far from over.

"As long as we don't know why the minister was hell bent on extending an illegal contract with CPS, the crisis is far from over."

Poor South Africans relied on the budget, but they could not trust Dlamini with the money, she said.

ANC MP Velhelmina Mogotsi said the ANC government is the only government that will ensure the social grant was available universally, not racially.

DA MP Bridget Masango asked how the country can trust a minister who put her department effectively under administration.

They tolerated her inconsistent and chaotic leadership, all at the taxpayer's expense.

Dlamini wrapped up with her reply.

"Today I felt like I grew up in the day of Joseph Goebbels," she opened.

"Others, they appear like they are stalking us. It's only a stalker that will know where you sleep."

She said she will never allow herself to be used by people who want to "give wrong information".

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