Johannesburg – Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has "noted the speculative reports" which she said were "disguised as an investigation by the Sunday Times", saying "this old and tired story" was probed by the Hawks and "closed" two years ago.
The Sunday Times reported that it "has seen text messages that confirm the minister's relationship with Lunga Ncwana, and reveal clandestine meetings, notorious friends and connections to Cash Paymaster Services".
The texts allegedly expose Dlamini's relationship with a controversial businessman with links to the social grants distribution tender.
The Sunday Times reported that the "explosive revelations" were contained in correspondence between Dlamini and then director-general of social development Zane Dangor – who resigned recently in the wake of the social grants scandal.
However, responding to the story, the social development department defended the minister saying: "It is disappointing that a newspaper of the Sunday Times stature would not take this old and tired story forward by providing their facts and evidence to South Africans or at least quote people who are prepared to speak on the record."
"The Sunday Times, its editors and owners are intent on pushing the narrative that the Minister is corrupt but they are not providing South Africa with any proof that the minister is gaining benefit or has gained benefits from the Cash Paymaster Services contract," said the department in a statement issued on Sunday.
The Sunday Times reported that "Dlamini's relationship with Ncwana has been the subject of speculation since the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) scandal came to light and this is the first time that proof linking the two has been made public".
The newspaper said the direct link to Ncwana is contained in one message Dlamini sent in March, in which she accused Dangor of attending meetings that decided who should be her friends: "You and Sipho [Shezi – adviser to the minister] have been used by [Sassa CEO Thokozani] Magwaza who is a friend to my former boyfriend who wanted to extort money from Lunga and could not."
The Sunday Times suggested that the ex-boyfriend mentioned in the message is a former intelligence official known as Cessaro.
"It appears the message relates to a falling out over the establishment of a BEE vehicle that was to partner with CPS to distribute social grants," reported the Sunday Times.
The department said for the past four years different media have been writing about this alleged relationship but none of these investigations are bringing forth anything new but only speculation.
"It would have been easier and more credible of the Sunday Times to provide the evidence that the Minister received a bribe and at least show South Africa that these messages were indeed from the minister," the department said.
"To this end, the department of social development requests accurate, fair and unbiased reporting. Media houses should know that they should be weary of unsubstantiated and fabrication of stories by disgruntled people who are themselves not innocent and were positioning themselves to gain from the payment of social grants."
The department said the one question South Africans should be asking, is why are these "sources" not approaching law enforcement agencies with their evidence?
"Instead they would rather take the option of creating doubt in the minds of South Africans."
The department said the Dlamini has also noted the comments by the Democratic Alliance to take this matter to the Public Protector and she welcomes this as a progressive step.
"A proper investigation by the Public Protector would bring an end to the pseudo investigations by every other person who is not interested in the truth and the objectivity, fairness they should be guided by."
Dlamini was quoted by her department as saying: "The Constitutional Court has made its ruling, every social grant beneficiary was paid as has always been the case but it looks like those who are desperate and with the agenda to tarnish the Minister want to open the case afresh through the media."
"The Hawks have already investigated the corruption claims and the matter was closed in November 2015. The case was also dismissed by the American law enforcement agencies but media houses choose to ignore these facts and want to continue with their defamatory reports."