Sassa debacle inquiry: Judge tells Dlamini to stop dodging questions

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini evaded questions during cross-examination on Tuesday.

Dlamini was testifying at an inquiry into her personal role and liability in the 2017 social grants crisis, being held at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand.

On several occasions Judge Bernard Ngoepe had to intervene as Black Sash advocate Geoff Budlender attempted to get answers.

In one instance, Ngoepe became visibly upset with Dlamini, telling her to stop dodging simple questions.

“Minister, I’m going to have to note on record that you are not answering the question,” he said.

Budlender had asked Dlamini why she was contradicting herself on record. He said that, in her testimony on Monday, she had said that former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza had never brought it to her attention that there was dissatisfaction at the social security agency over the established workstreams.

“Yesterday you said it was never brought to your attention that there was dissatisfaction … that is not true, because Magwaza brought it to your attention,” Budlender inquired.

Dlamini responded that Magwaza had only informed her later when the workstreams had been established.

‘Minister, please answer’

Dissatisfied with her response, Budlender asked Dlamini again why she had contradicted her own statements.

“For any impasse to be noted happened after Magwaza took office. This surprised me because he had initially agreed.”

Ngoepe then intervened, insisting that Dlamini respond to questions.

“For my own piece of mind, Mr Budlender repeat the question … minister, please answer,” Ngoepe said.

The minister then said she could only answer the question later, “after seeing Magwaza’s submissions”.

Ngoepe, running his hands acrooss his forehead in frustration, then told her: “We cannot keep repeating the same question, so what is the answer minister?”

A defiant Dlamini said: “With all due respect, I would like to see submissions before I would be able to respond.”

The Constitutional Court appointed Ngoepe to head the inquiry into whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs incurred during the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) payment crisis.

The inquiry is investigating whether Dlamini sought the appointment of individuals, to lead the various “workstreams”, who would report directly to her.

Minister reprimanded by translator

The three workstreams – which were “information and business management”, “banking services and project management, legislative and policy requirements management”, and “benefits and local economic development” – appeared to exist in parallel with the function of the department and Sassa.

The leaders of these workstreams acted as advisors to Dlamini, before they were appointed to lead the workstreams, a move that was said to be illegal and irregular.

Further, the Constitutional Court ordered the inquiry to investigate the details of the appointments in terms of when the individuals were appointed, who they reported to, and the details of the dates and contents of the workstream’s report to the minister. Lastly, the inquiry would consider why the minister did not disclose this information to the Constitutional Court, News24 earlier reported.

During the morning session, Dlamini often raised eyebrows by correcting her translator. She had elected to testify in isiZulu.

On several occasions, she would interject while the translator was speaking and make her own submissions in English.

On one such occasion, the translator reprimanded Dlamini, saying that she was not allowing him to do his job. Dlamini immediately apologised.

The hearings are continuing. — News24

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa
Lizeka Tandwa Associate Leturer and Co-ordinator of the Honors Programme.

Related stories

Politicians must be held accountable

Endless, toothless internal integrity committees are not the way out of corruption

Sassa disses disability grant applicants

Towards the end of level four of the lockdown, Sassa offices reopened for applications for old age pensions and childcare and foster care grants, but not for disability grants

Sona will cast a spotlight on Ramaphosa (and the ANC’s) many problems

The president is facing challenges at every turn, among them the economy, the state of SOEs and factionalism within the ANC. Only if Ramaphosa and his party work together will they be able to turn their declining fortunes around

Court victory for 400 000 elderly black women

An apartheid law that dispossessed black women of the assets accrued during their marriages has finally been scrapped after a Pinetown pensioner, facing impoverishment, went to court

Sisulu to face Parliament on Bathabile’s new job

The minister of human settlements, water and sanitation, who put Dlamini in the job on November  5, has 10 days to respond to parliamentary questions

Bathabile’s back – as head of the housing board

The president of the ANC Women’s League, takes control of the housing board with effect from November 1

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Exclusive: Top-secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes

Explosive witness testimony from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda implicates Paul Kagame and the RPF in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 genocide.

Shadow of eviction looms over farm dwellers

In part two of a series on the lives of farm dwellers, Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni finds a community haunted by the scourge of eviction

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…