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Social grants assurance

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South Africans fearing the worst

Thokozani Magwaza. File picture

THE SUDDEN departure of South Africa Social Security Agency chief executive Thokozani Magwaza this week, after only nine months in the job, has South Africans fearing the worst.

There are many who believe Magwaza was forced to resign after clashing with his political principal, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, over his insistence that the South African Post Office take over from Cash Paymaster Services next year to distribute the monthly social grants to the 17 million beneficiaries who depend upon them to survive.

Dlamini almost orchestrated a total social catastrophe earlier this year when, whether intentionally or through incompetence, she left the Constitutional Court with no option but to extend and retroactively regularise an illegal arrangement with Cash Paymaster Services to continue administering and dispensing the grants, or face the real prospect of rendering almost a third of the country destitute for the immediate future.

The Constitutional Court delivered an excoriating judgment on Dlamini’s competency and her shirking of her responsibilities, but it was not enough for her to be replaced by President Jacob Zuma during his unprecedented purge of the cabinet, in which many more-competent ministers were demoted.

In the months since, the agency has been rocked by a wave of resignations among senior managers, further compromising its ability to fulfil its mandate.

Now, erstwhile ANC alliance allies, the SACP and Cosatu, are demanding, along with the Black Sash, that Dlamini account for the latest crisis.

There are fears that Magwaza was forced out to thwart any moves to force Dlamini to pay for the costs of her abortive and vain defence of Cash Paymaster Services as an unauthorised and effectively illegal service provider.

This is a very dangerous accusation, but unfortunately well within the narrative that the minister has already authored herself.

She owes it to herself to come clean and prevent any further sullying of her own reputation, but most of all, we need to be assured that the payment of grants will not be in jeopardy – and that her department is actually doing not just what it is supposed to do, but what the apex court in this country actually ordered it to do.