Social development minister Bathabile Dlamini on Wednesday refused to take sole responsibility for the appointment of controversial “work streams” to do work for the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), to the point of implying that they had appointed themselves.
In July 2015, Dlamini ordered the appointment of the work streams, which have cost at least R50-million and have been found to have breached procurement rules.
Asked to confirm that she had made the decision to appoint the work streams, Dlamini said she did not agree with that characterisation, then that what may look like her decision “is a decision based on processes”.
“I have already clarified that although this was reported as a decision by me it was based on an advisory process with the [ministerial] advisory committee,” Dlamini said when pushed further.
The work streams were created by asking all the members of the ministerial committee to stay on in consulting roles for at least three years, Dlamini said previously. That means the individuals who were paid hefty retainers to work for Sassa made the decision that they should be hired.
Dlamini then defended her consultative decision to appoint the work streams by saying that “nobody ever came forward with a different view”.
Dlamini continued to alternate between evasive and combative during the inquiry on whether she misled the Constitutional Court — and appeared unable to answer questions directly.
Vincent Maleka, advocate for Dlamini’s former special advisor and later director general Zane Dangor wanted to know if Dlamini had consulted Dangor on the creation of the work streams.
“Who must consult who?” asked Dlamini.
“I am going to to ask the questions, and I’m going to insist that you answer them without asking questions,” said Maleka. “Did you are did you not consult Mr Dangor?”
Dlamini vaguely referred to Dangor not showing diligence in attending meetings, and contrasted him with another staffer who “took this seriously”, but did not answer the question. So Maleka put it to her that Dangor will testify she did not consult with him before writing the letter, and asked for her response.
“What did Mr Dangor say when he saw the letter?” asked Dlamini.
Dlamini had similar trouble dealing with Richard Solomon, the advocate representing former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza, in the afternoon session.
Magwaza will testify that she instructed him to appoint the work stream members, said Solomon. Would she care to comment?
Dlamini responded that she thinks there is a memorandum that explains that some putative work steam members were not available, and explaining why. The response bore no discernible resemblance to the question.
Asked about her earlier explanation that she had learnt of trouble at Sassa by way of an article in investigative magazine Noseweek, Dlamini said that “this periodical is not a government document” and that she “really can not be judged on the article that I read”.
Asked to confirm a meeting with Magwaza, Dlamini asked for a definition of the word “meeting”. She would then initially not elaborate on why she needed a definition for the word.