Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini testifies at the commission of inquiry in Johannesburg. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - South Africa's Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini, faces cross-examination from her two former technocrats at the Constitutional Court-mandated commission of inquiry underway in Johannesburg. 

Commission chairperson, retired justice Barnard Ngoepe, ruled that former SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) chief executive officer (CEO) Thokozani Magwaza and Dlamini’s former adviser, Zane Dangor, can cross-examine the minister and put across their version of events. 

This came after Seena Yacoob, for Freedom Under Law (FUL), on Tuesday told the inquiry that it was important that Ngoepe heard from the two witnesses.

Ngoepe was hesitant at first but then told the inquiry that he would not be pleased should the Constitutional Court find that he did not complete his task as requested, and then refer the matter back to him.

“The minister has testified, and in my view, all fairness to Magwaza and Dangor, they should have a right to cross-examine the minister. They will do so on condition that they will limit themselves within their own evidence and won’t go beyond that.”

READ MORE: Dlamini accuses former CEO of causing problems at #Sassa

Both Magwaza and Dangor resigned after a fallout with Dlamini as the social grants debacle raged on. Magwaza even filed an affidavit in the Constitutional Court disputing Dlamini’s claims in court that sought to lay blame on the Sassa executives. 

The former CEO said the affidavit was his personal account to “set the record straight” that Dlamini knew as far back as July 2015  that Sassa would not able to take over the grant payments. He accused Dlamini of interfering in Sassa plans to take over from Cash Paymaster Service (CPS).

Dangor resigned as social development department’s director general in March 2017, just four months following his appointment in November 2016. 

He said at the time he had resigned because of a “complete breakdown in the relationship between him and the minister over the payment of social grants and the legal requirements obliged by Sassa”.

The inquiry into Dlamini’s role in the social grants debacle commenced on Monday in Johannesburg at the instruction of the highest court in the land. The commission is probing whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for legal costs incurred in the social grants debacle.

The grants crisis saw rights group Black Sash and FUL taking the department to the Constitutional Court to ensure that over 17 million beneficiaries continued to receive grants, after the court ruled in 2014 that the CPS contract to dispense grants was invalid.

In March 2017, the Constitutional Court ordered that CPS continue to pay grants for a further twelve months, after it was found that Sassa was unable to meet the deadline and take over grant payments.

The inquiry continues on Wednesday.

African News Agency/ANA