Nkosazana Zuma's evil shadow

The company that distributes millions of state social security grants has not only the government but all South Africa hanging from a cliff.

Over the past year Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a subsidiary of the US-based Net1 Group was responsible for distributing R130 billion (close on R11bn a month) on behalf of the state to 17 million South Africans – 30% of the population – who are dependent on the grants for their survival.

But on 31 March the company’s contract comes to an end. On April Fool’s Day the Department of Social Development, by way of its division, the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), was to have taken on that mammoth responsibility itself.

But, it can’t. Just weeks before D-Day, it has finally come clean: it does not know how to do the job. It has no plan. It is “still considering options”. (Cynics have noted that its sole achievement has been to channel tens of millions of public funds to friends in the IT business.)

The department has known this for at least a year, but at the direction of the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, it has been lying to Parliament and the public about the true situation.

Already in July last year Noseweek warned that if Sassa were unable to make a smooth takeover, and payments failed to reach the 17 million people on time, the consequences could be catastrophic. One third of the population would immediately be without the means to feed themselves. The national crisis would be on the scale of war.

That moment might have arrived.

Keeping it in the family (l to r): Bathabile Dlamini, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Jacob Zuma

By its own doing, the department has no “options” to consider: its only option is to contract with CPS to continue providing the service – at whatever price and on whatever terms that company may choose to demand.

The department and its minister have known this for months.

In  October last year the department secretly sought advice from one of South Africa’s most eminent lawyers, Advocate Wim Trengove SC. His advice – confess your sins immediately, put Treasury in the picture, and then commence negotiating the best possible deal with CPS for the shortest feasible period.

A snag: by concluding such an enormous deal without having gone through an open tender process, they will be breaking a number of laws and regulations. Trengove suggested they plan to rectify that situation in the shortest possible time and, in the meantime, approach the Constitutional Court to condone the interim arrangement with CPS.

Instead, the minister ordered the department to do none of the above – and to keep Trengove’s advice secret. (It was leaked to the media shortly before Noseweek went to press.) Officials anxious to do the right thing were threatened with suspension by the minister.

The further delay has robbed the department of any negotiating room it might have had. Wise to this, CPS has demanded a R1.25 billion increase in it’s annual admin fee to the department.

Less well-known, it has also reserved the right to more-than double the transaction fee to be charged to social grant recipients when they use an ATM to draw their cash – generating more billions for CPS and its bankers at the expense of the poor.

(CPS has also insisted that Dlamini should not approach the Constitutional Court, where she – and they – risk being publicly censured.)

The Minister of Finance and the Treasury have understandably balked at the huge wasted cost and at being expected to connive at breaking laws they are supposed to police and enforce.

As a result they face being fired by President Jacob Zuma, who is determined to protect his ally, even if it precipitates the collapse of the rand and a slide into Mugabedom.

So who is Bathabile Dlamini to enjoy such expensive protection? She is the woman who, at Mangaung, rallied the Women’s League to get Jacob Zuma elected President. (She was ANCWL secretary general from 1998 to 2008 and became president of the league in 2015.) She is the party hack who springs to his defence, no matter what. Her empathy is guaranteed because she, too, has been found to be a thief of public funds: in October 2006, she was convicted and fined after pleading guilty to fraud involving parliamentary travel vouchers worth R254,000.

More recently in New York she made the news with her line that “all of us in the [ANC] NEC have our small skeletons and we don’t want to take all the skeletons out because hell will break loose”. (She had been asked to comment on revelations surrounding Zuma and the Gupta family.)

Her preference for five-star hotels and first-class international air travel also made headlines last year when it emerged that she had spent no fewer than 31 nights at the luxurious Oyster Box Hotel in Durban, costing several thousands per night, not long after asserting that R753 was enough for a family to live on every month. (Her department spent a whopping R121.5 million on travel in 2015.)

Further protection derives from the fact that in recent weeks, she has always been barely a heartbeat away from her other friend, presidential hopeful and outgoing AU Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

As she did for Jacob Zuma at Mangaung, she plans to do for Dlamini-Zuma: she has already persuaded the Women’s League to nominate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as Zuma’s successor.

On 25 January, the Social Development minister dodged a critical meeting of Parliament’s Social Development committee, especially convened so that she could explain what is to happen come April 1.

Instead, the committee was informed on the day that Dlamini was in Addis Ababa at the side of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was delivering the keynote address at an international women’s conference.

Days later, at a church service in Khutsong, Dlamini likened Dlamini-Zuma to Jesus: “She is both a lion and a lamb”, she told the congregation.

Would you buy a second-hand car from that woman?

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Submitted by : Donn Edwards on 2017-03-01 13:07:53
I hope the DA and/or EFF drag the Minister and CPS to the Constitutional Court on 1st April when the new "contract" kicks in. She should be held personally responsible for all the extra ATM fees and the R1.25 billion increase. She can pay it out of her pension.
Submitted by : Terry on 2017-02-27 02:51:03
After such flagrant stonewalling/ disregard for the Constitutional Court's ruling, shouldn't Bathabile Dlamini be jailed for 'contempt of court'? Or are some more equal than others?


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