Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has come under fire from her former neighbours in Pietermaritzburg. File photo: David Ritchie/Independent Media
Durban – People who have known and grown up with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini in her hometown of Imbali Unit 1 in Pietermaritzburg have described her as “heartless” because of a “lack of empathy” in handling the social grants debacle.

Busisiwe Ntuli, 70, a grant recipient, said it was unbearable that “one of our own” would be responsible for the possible non-payment of social grants.

The minister on Tuesday appeared before Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) amid the social grants storm that has engulfed her department.

Dlamini and her department have been in the headlines since it emerged that the grant money of 17million recipients was in jeopardy because the payment contract between Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) expired at the end of this month.

The contract was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court in 2014.

Busisiwe Ntuli, a 70-year-old pensioner of Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, and former neighbour of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

“She grew up here and we were all affected by the political instability of the time. When she became minister, there was hope that she would handle that portfolio very well, knowing the suffering of the people,” Ntuli told the Daily News on Tuesday.

“When I heard in the news that there was this uncertainty about the payment of grants, I lost faith in her. She can’t be the same person who was ducking bullets, and subsequently left the area amid political violence,” Ntuli said.

The grandmother of three primary schoolchildren lives with her unemployed husband in a modest four-room house a few streets from Dlamini’s former home.

Ntuli said she survived on her old-age and child-support grants, supplementing the total amount with “the little” she gets by doing laundry for homes in the area.

“My husband does not even receive a pension. If we don’t get these grants, how does she expect us to survive? The sore part is that her family is well taken care of,” she said.

Dlamini apparently visited the area when there were funerals of people she knew.

According to resident Nokwazi Mcanyana, the minister attended a funeral in the area last month.

“We spoke. We told her that we were hungry. We appealed to her for jobs and all she said was that we must form co-operatives.

“She said we must have a meeting as a community and decide what we wanted to do, and then we should let her know, but it’s not clear how we would let her know,” Mcanyana said.

The 50-year-old foster parent to three children said Dlamini grew up in the area.

She said the minister left when her home was burnt down in the early 1980s.

“We were all in the struggle when she left. It pains me that I’m at home, unemployed, and the same person we look up to shows no care about us.

“The arrogance she has displayed in dealing with the grants issue is shocking,” she said.

Nonhlanhla Mvelase, 29, said only a heartless person would let children starve for reasons only known to her.

“Bathabile knows our economic situation in this area. She stayed here, so it would be heartless of her if grants were not paid out. This would be bad for all South Africans,” said the mother of one.

When the Daily News went to Dlamini’s childhood home, an elderly woman said she had bought the house from its previous owners.

“They moved to the suburbs some time ago,” said the lady who did not answer further questions.

Daily News