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Social Development Minister Edna Molewa has asked the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to probe the release of R4,3-million to a KwaZulu-Natal businessman who gave a lavish pre-election party for President Jacob Zuma.
It was reported a month ago that the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) had approved the release of funds to Durban businessman Mabheleni Ntuli, who sponsored the party held for the ANC president before the elections.
Ntuli allegedly received R2,5m from the agency for the party and a further R1,8m to buy food parcels for villagers in KwaNxamalala, Zuma's birthplace in KwaZulu-Natal.
DA spokesperson on social development Patricia Kopane has asked the Public Protector to investigate why Sassa chief executive Feziwe Makiwane had ordered the agency's main service provider, Cash Paymaster Services, to release the cash to a company owned by Ntuli, an ardent Zuma supporter.
Guests at the party for Zuma were entertained by gospel singer Deborah Fraser.
Speaking to Independent Newspapers in Parliament, Molewa said she had asked the Special Investigation Unit to probe if there was any wrongdoing on the part of Sassa.
Molewa said the money was not meant for poverty relief but was disbursed by Cash Paymaster Services from its corporate social responsibility fund.
"It's not even state money. It's money that the service provider set aside for corporate social investment," she said.
The investigation would look into whether proper processes were followed.
Molewa said her department had done a preliminary investigation and had found that there was "nothing quite unbecoming" in the transaction.
The department has pointed out that the corporate social investment fund had supported many projects in the past, including Christmas functions for senior citizens in Calvinia, the KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches' poverty alleviation projects and HIV and Aids home-based care in other provinces.
Kopane said the office of the public protector had acknowledged receipt of her request for an investigation. She would also put parliamentary questions to the minister.
"I want to know whether she was she aware of this and what action has been taken," said Kopane.
Molewa said rooting out corruption in the department was at the top of her priority list.
She said there had been much improvement since her predecessor, Zola Skweyiya, had brought in the SIU to trace corrupt civil servants who were illegally benefiting from grants and to investigate social grant fraud.
"The picture has improved," she said. The unit was working full-time to scrutinise all transactions related to social grants.
"It looks at all transactions, whether procurement or anything else. Some people have been taken to court (for fraud)."