Johannesburg - Social Development Minster Bathabile Dlamini has refused to admit that she is not allowed, by law, to interfere in the work done by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).
Dlamini was cross-examined at the Constitutional Court commission inquiry that seeks to determine whether she should be held liable for the Sassa grants crisis.
Despite a number of attempts by Advocate Geoff Budlender, who represents the Black Sash, to get Dlamini to admit to that she had overstepped in her powers by interfering in Sassa matters – she avoided the question by first claiming she did not understand.
The minister then said it was wrong of some to believe that she “could do some things and not others”. She hinted that she had the political power to have a hand in how business is conducted at Sassa.
Budlender pressed Dlamini to admit that she had overstepped in appointing work streams that did parallel work done by Sassa employees.
“You said you do not run Sassa now I am asking you that do you agree that you don’t have the power to run Sassa?” Budlender asked.
“My role in Sassa is there in the act. There are clear areas that say that the minister can do this and not this. I want you to be clear in your question?” said Dlamini.
“I put it to that you were responsible for hiring the work streams that did not do what they were appointed for?”
“Sassa has been around and all these things never happened,” said Dlamini.
The minister at times came across as evasive in her answers that the head of the inquiry Judge Bernard Ngoepe had to intervene and insist that she answer the questions presented.
Dlamini was also caught in a contradiction in her testimony. On the first day of the inquiry, Dlamini said she did not know there were Sassa executives, including former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza, who were against the workstreams.
But on Tuesday she admitted that she had received a letter from Magwaza outlining his unhappiness with the workstreams.
She insisted that the workstreams were above board and were not introduced to frustrate the work done by Sassa employees.
The workstreams reported directly to Dlamini, who said they were put in place to make sure that Sassa met its obligation of taking over grants payments.
She said they were needed because critical skills were lacking at Sassa.
“There are things that they (Sassa employees) are unable to do, not that I am saying that they couldn’t do their job. But there are some things they couldn’t deliver on,” said Dlamini.