Zuma: I am fulfilling the Concourt's order by keeping Dlamini as minister
President Jacob Zuma has defended his decision to not sack Bathabile Dlamini from her position as social development minister, by arguing that Dlamini is simply doing the work the Constitutional Court ordered her to do.
Zuma’s defence of Dlamini came after Democratic Alliance leader asked the president why he had not axed her.
“Minister Dlamini is dealing with the problem of solving the problem that emerged and we have a committee that I have just described that has just discussed a solution and we are finding a solution. That is the matter we are dealing with,” he said during a question and answer session in Parliament on Thursday.
“The Concourt gave an order to that minister. It did not give an order to any other person. If you remove her who is going to implement that order?,” Zuma said.
Dlamini has been criticised for her handling of the grants crisis. Earlier this year, around 17-million people who rely on social grants were faced with a dangerous prospect: their grants payment would not be delivered. Sassa’s contract with its payment delivery service provider Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) had come to an end.
The contract was earlier declared unlawful by the Constitutional Court, but it remained in place until this year to allow Sassa the opportunity to tender for a new reliable service provider. But Sassa did not meet the Concourt deadline for a new contract.
Its extended contract with CPS will expire in March 2018. Sassa’s last hope for a service provider is the South African Post Office (Sapo). The two have instead launched verbal attacks on one another, and a parliamentary committee established to oversee the new grants delivery system has ordered them to come to an agreement.
In Parliament, the topic of solving the renewed looming grants crisis began with a history lesson courtesy of Msholozi. The president reminded MPs that the poverty of black people began with their dispossession by oppressive regimes.
“Poverty is a direct baby of apartheid, particularly to the majority. They were deprived of everything,” he said.
Zuma went on to say that the grants system, which is managed by the social development department, is one of the methods government has devised to assist poor South Africans.
“Don’t present poverty as a problem of this government. This government is trying to solve that problem. The reason why we have got such a huge scheme to look after those who are extremely hungry is a direct problem of the system of apartheid,” he said.
“If that is understood you will then understand why we have all these measures. You will then understand why we have Sassa and whatever, to address the problems that there were created by a system of apartheid.”
Zuma is currently chairing the parliamentary committee that has looked into Sassa’s efforts to find a new service provider. He said that current dispute with the Sapo had caught the attention of the treasury.
“The minister of finance is meeting both departments to discuss and solve that problem,” Zuma said on Thursday.
But Maimane stood up in the National Assembly to ask why Zuma had not yet axed Dlamini for her department’s failures to sign a contract with a service provider. Dlamini has failed to attend numerous meetings before parliamentary committees, raising renewed fears of another grants crisis.
“Mr President what is not a problem of apartheid is Minister Bathabile Dlamini. As minister of social development, she’s leading from on crisis to the next,” Maimane said.
“The truth of the matter is that Minister Bathabile Dlamini is incompetent. she simply can’t do the job of delivering grants to the people of South Africa,” he continued.
“While you are reshuffling every other month, why have you kept Minister Bathabile Dlamini in her job despite her incompetence?”
Zuma furrowed his eyebrows, and countered Maimane with a question of his own: “Why are you defending apartheid?”.
“You are a victim of apartheid you, I don’t know why you defend it,” he said.
Dlamini has survived two Cabinet reshuffles this year to remain social development minister. The Concourt threatened that she could be personally liable for the grants crisis earlier this year, yet she has remained absent from parliamentary meetings, holding a press conference only late in parliament to announce that Sapo was an unsuitable service provider.
Sassa will have to sign a contract before March 2018 or risk disobeying the Concourt’s orders once again.