18 October 2017

South Africa: Dlamini, Sassa Face Possible Summons After No-Show in Parliament

Photo: allafrica.com
Left: Social Development Minister Bathebile Dlamini. Right: Sassa offices.

The Portfolio Committee on Social Development will take legal advice on the possibility of summonsing Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, her department and Sassa, following their no-show in Parliament on Wednesday.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) and the department ditched a scheduled committee meeting with MPs on Wednesday, sending a letter on Tuesday to chairperson Rose Capa requesting a postponement.

Acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bengu said they "did not have substantial progress to report since their last meeting", and would prefer a meeting in November.

Capa was firm in her responding letter on Tuesday, telling them they would proceed with the meeting as planned. She also reminded Sassa of their Constitutional mandate.

The meeting then went ahead on Wednesday, with no officials present.

Capa also read out an SMS from Sassa, which said: "Given the matter, it is on our agenda, and will be dealt with when that matter comes."

On Wednesday, the committee agreed to a proposal to hold a joint meeting with the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), which was also due to meet with Sassa on Wednesday evening.

Scopa chairperson Themba Godi tweeted on Wednesday that he had also received a similar letter from Sassa. Scopa MPs will meet later on Wednesday to discuss the proposal.

'Don't have the sweets'

Capa said Parliament was its own Constitutional pillar, and a minister or CEO could not decide when a meeting could or could not sit.

"You can't decide not to come when you don't have the sweets."

The committee also agreed to call in the Auditor General about its own report on Sassa, and the panel of experts set up by the Constitutional Court.

As for a legal summons, Capa would take legal advice on who should be issued with the summons.

A legal summons is different to an invite. Failure to appear before the committee after receiving a summons could lead to a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, a Parliamentary legal adviser told MPs.

African National Congress MP Velhelmina Mogotsi said the committee had given Sassa grace last week during its annual report, as the progress update was not on the agenda.

Today, however, they were nowhere to be seen.

Democratic Alliance MP Lindy Wilson said the portfolio committee needed to find out if anyone was intervening in the SAPO deal. "We need answers and we need it quickly."

Economic Freedom Fighters MP Primrose Sonti said she had just received bad news that a young person she had been working with in her constituency to aid recipients had been shot dead.

She said she had come to the committee to hear the presentation and press on, and that it was "so, so disappointing" to be stood up.

ANC MP Sibongile Tsoleli said the letter had to be rejected.

"It's very disrespectful to us. They can't do that."

Four months left

Dlamini was the only individual from the department who sent an apology, saying once again that she was in a Wednesday Cabinet meeting.

Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has not attended a meeting all year, and did not send an apology.

No one from the department was present either, such as the acting director general, or any representatives from Sassa, including Bhengu.

A November update would leave Sassa with four months to finalise the migration before March 31, or risk keeping on invalid service provider Cash Paymaster Services.

Source: News24

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