One of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s closest aides has accused her of trying to thwart the Constitutional Court’s rulings on Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) in a revealing affidavit filed with the high court in Pretoria.
Sipho Shezi was Dlamini’s full-time adviser from 2013 until she fired him last year. He had worked with Zane Dangor, the former director general of the social development department, and Thokozani Magwaza, the former chief executive of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), both of whom resigned.
Shezi was given the chop last year during the Sassa debacle over CPS’s irregular contract for social grants payments. He has filed papers in the high court, asking for Dlamini’s decision to be reviewed and for him to be reinstated.
This comes as Dlamini is fighting for her own position. The inquiry into her role in causing the Sassa crisis is set to begin next week.
Although in his affidavit Shezi focuses on why he should get his job back, he also reveals how Dlamini’s relationship with “work streams”, which had pushed to ensure the CPS contract continued indefinitely, had contributed to millions of beneficiaries not knowing whether they would receive their grants last year.
“I was dismissed simply because I advised Dlamini … to adhere to the Constitutional Court judgment rather than seek to transgress it,” Shezi says.
“The process chosen by Dlamini … lacked transparency and was an attempt to thwart the Constitutional Court judgment by continuing with a contract for as many years as possible with CPS.”
Shezi states that Dlamini terminated his contract because he was “no doubt proving to be a thorn in her side” by insisting on open, transparent and honest governance when finding a solution to the impending grant payment crisis.
According to his affidavit, the work streams — which were established in 2016 to find a way for Sassa to pay grants internally, but were subsequently found by the treasury to have been appointed irregularly — would only report to Dlamini.
She has denied this in a number of her affidavits and statements before the Constitutional Court.
The minister’s spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, did not give a direct response to why Dlamini had not responded to Shezi’s application to be reinstated, and instead referred to the impending investigation.
“The issues you raise are matters that are before the relevant structures for determination and are not new. They are a subject of the public inquiry established by the Constitutional Court and the minister is awaiting further information from Judge Bernard Ngoepe, who was appointed to oversee this matter,” she said.
Shezi is the third senior official who worked closely with Dlamini to accuse her of creating parallel structures in the agency that would only report to her and that led to the confusion over grant payouts last year.
In September 2016, Dangor and Lynette Maart, from the civil society organisation, Black Sash, which has been championing for a transparent process to find a grant payment solution that did not depend on CPS, and a member of the ministerial task team requested a meeting with the department about the progress of bringing social grant payments in-house.
Zodwa Mvulane, brought in by Dlamini to manage the work streams, apparently declined the request. This, says Shezi, is when he grew concerned and he pushed for an urgent meeting with Dangor and Sassa’s acting chief executive, Raphaahle Ramokgopa.
This is corroborated by Dangor’s statement that will form part of the inquiry into Dlamini’s conduct.
“Ramokgopa confirmed to both myself and Dangor that she had very little knowledge of the work done by the work streams, as they reported directly to Mvulane, who reported directly to Dlamini,” states Shezi.
It was only in October 2016 that the difficulties created by this parallel reporting structure became evident, he says. It became clear that Sassa was approaching a crisis. According to court papers, Dangor and Shezi called for a meeting with treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile to set up a technical team to develop an emergency solution that would ensure grants were paid come April 2017, when CPS’s contract expired.
In January 2017, when the technical team was due to present its proposals to Dangor, it became evident that there was conflict between the work streams headed by Mvulane and the ministerial task team that included treasury representatives.
During this reportback, it was revealed that, because there was so little time left to formulate a plan, CPS would be kept on for an additional 12 months. This option offered the least risk. It was also agreed that the extension would be subject to a long-term plan — in future, grants would be paid using banks and the South African Post Office.
Dangor told Dlamini of the decision that all stakeholders were happy with, including the work streams. “All the participants agreed and social development’s legal team was instructed to file the document on the day [February 16],” reads the statement.
But Dlamini was not having any of it. According to Shezi, she instructed her department’s legal team not to file the document and, five days later, she and the work streams revealed a new approach without having consulted the treasury or anyone else.
“The new approach was premised on the notion that the Constitutional Court had discharged its supervisory role and therefore the department of social development did not need to get consent to enter into negotiations with CPS,” he claims.
Dlamini’s plan was that the department would instead file a supplementary report outlining the discussions with CPS, and that the new contract would be for two years.