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Minister Dlamini to appear before inquiry to account for social grant debacle

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The Constitutional Court mandated enquiry into the Minister of Social Developments’ personal liability is set to take place from 22 - 26 January in Midrand

The Constitutional Court mandated enquiry into the Minister of Social Developments’ personal liability is set to take place from Monday 22 to Friday 26 January 2018 from 10:00 – 16:00 at the Office of the Chief Justice situated at 377 14th Road, Noordwyk, Midrand. This is an open hearing and members of the public and the media are welcome.

A narrow inquiry into Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s role ahead of last year’s social grants crisis will begin at the Office of the Chief Justice next week. This inquiry follows a Constitutional Court order declaring the Minister be joined in her personal capacity to litigation brought by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies on behalf of the Black Sash Trust against SASSA, the Minister and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). The litigation sought to ensure the social grant payment system would be protected when the contract between SASSA and CPS ended in March 2017.

In its judgment of 17 March 2017, the Constitutional Court called upon the Minister to explain why she should not be joined to the case in her personal capacity and pay the costs of the application out of her own pocket. It further indicated that the Minister bears the primary responsibility to ensure that SASSA fulfils its functions.

After considering papers filed by the Minister, the former Chief Executive Officer of SASSA and the former Director General of the Department of Social Development, the Court ordered on 15 June 2017 that the Minister be joined to the matter in her personal capacity. Since there were a number of disputes in these papers, the Court further sought agreement from the parties to establish an inquiry to investigate any outstanding issues in terms of Section 38 of the Superior Courts Act.

On 3 August 2017, the Court appointed the Honourable Justice Bernard Ngoepe as the inquiry referee, mandating the enquiry to investigate:

  1. Whether the Minister sought the appointment of individuals to lead the “work streams” to report directly to her;
  2. Details of the appointments in terms of when the individuals were appointed, who they reported to and the details of the dates and contents of the report of the work streams to the Minister; and
  3. Why the Minister did not disclose this information to the Court.

This process is part of ongoing litigation around the uncertainty beneficiaries still face about whether there will be a plan in place for the uninterrupted payment of social grants come 1 April 2018. Black Sash and CALS remain concerned about the integrity of the grant payment system and the 17 million people it assists.