Newly-appointed acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: @OfficialSASSA/Twitter

Johannesburg - Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini may have wrapped herself in another controversy, this time with reports emerging that new acting South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Pearl Bhengu is in business with her daughter.

The Mail & Guardian reports that Bhengu has a registered business where she is a director along with Dlamini’s 21-year-old daughter Skhumbuzo Mazibuko called “Umnotho Wabafazi Biz".

The business, which aimed to get into the maritime industry, was registered in 2015, but according to Dlamini’s spokesperson Lumka Oliphant the business never took off.

The business interest has, according to the paper, raised concerns among some Sassa staff members about Bhengu’s capabilities to lead the agency independently due to her close ties with Dlamini.

Dlamini appointed Bhengu this week, following former CEO Thokozani Magwaza’s sudden removal from the position early this week. Bhengu was Sassa’s KwaZulu-Natal’s regional executive. 

Magwaza’s departure was apparently amicable between him and Dlamini, but the department and Magwaza have remained mum on the reasons. 

The relationship between Dlamini and Magwaza had soured for some time especially during the controversy that surrounded the renewal of Cash Paymaster Services’ contract with Sassa for the distribution of social grants. 

He had contradicted Dlamini on the accounts leading up to the awarding of the contract in his affidavit to the Constitutional Court regarding the distribution of social grants.

Magwaza also had concerns about Dlamini’s interference in the running of business at the agency.

The Mail & Guardian quoted a source from the agency who alleged that Dlamini intended to appoint a CEO that would not defy her and would follow her instructions. 

It’s also alleged that she has been giving some Sassa employees instructions that contradicted what Magwaza wanted to do. 

Magwaza had also cancelled work streams which cost R47 million that were created by Dlamini and performed the same functions as Sassa staff members.  
The National Treasury had red flagged the work streams, which reported directly to Dlamini, as irregular expenditure. 

Meanwhile, a letter has also surfaced which was allegedly penned by Magwaza, just days before his departure, to SA Post Office CEO Mark Barnes informing him that Sassa planned to appoint it to help with the distribution of social grants. 

The Post Office would be appointed as “service aggregator” under a Build Operate and Transfer Model for a five-year contract. “Sassa and the SAPO would work together to develop and implement an Integrated Grants Payment Solution that will at the end of the contract be handed over to Sassa, who will have built enough capacity be a fully-fledged paymaster,” said the letter.

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