Minister Dlamini cannot be trusted with the money for the poor

Note to Editors: The following speech is under embargo until delivery. The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango MP, during the Budget Vote on Social Development.
The budget vote we are debating today is meant to facilitate the Social Development Department’s commitment to social transformation.
The Department continues to state that it “endeavours to create a better life for the poor, vulnerable and excluded people in our society”.
But recent, almost unbelievable, developments in this Department stand in stark contradiction to this noble commitment and endeavour.
And the actions and behaviour of the Minister whose budget we are expected to support today show no commitment to these goals at all.
This is the same Minister – tasked with protecting the poorest of the poor – whose preferred place of residence is the Oyster Box Hotel. Yet, she insists that South Africans can survive on R753 a month.
As South Africans we need to take a closer look at the Minister in charge of this budget and honestly ask ourselves whether we want to entrust her with a budget meant for poor, vulnerable and excluded South Africans?
This is the same Minister who stands at the helm of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) which has notched up more than R1 billion in irregular expenditure.
We need only to recall the run-up to the 31 March 2017 expiry date of the illegal and irregular contract between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and SASSA, to be reminded of Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s rank negligence and her lack of empathy for her task as Minister.
The DA consistently called for action or at least clarity on what plans the Department and SASSA had made to move the distribution of social grants inhouse – but our calls fell on defiant and disdainfully deaf ears.
When civil society voiced its displeasure with the Minister, she singlehandedly defied all logic and rule of law to ensure that the irregular and illegal contract was “extended” – despite earlier, on record assurances that SASSA would be prepared to take over the distribution of social grants on April 1st this year.
Leaders from various sectors – including church groups and NGOs – took turns to decry the Minister’s behaviour and her attitude towards the poor and vulnerable of our country.
While we still demand to know what the Minister’s well-paid work streams and their leaders have been doing all these years to institutionalise the system, we will be scrutinising the Department and SASSA’s progress towards its promise of taking over the payment of social grants on April 1st, 2018.
We are not holding our breath.
This Minister blocked efforts by SASSA officials to adhere to the Constitutional Court order three times, losing a Director General in the process.
Even her own staff can’t work with her, it seems.
Therefore, this Minister simply cannot be trusted with the budget for the Department.
The Minister’s inconsistency and chaotic style of leadership can be demonstrated in the much publicised R316 million that was paid to CPS in 2015 for “enrolling more grant recipients and beneficiaries than it claimed it was contracted to do”.
The Minister presided over the decision to oppose Corruption Watch’s application to review and set aside the decision to pay the money – only to decide recently to withdraw its costly opposition to the legal challenge. All of this at taxpayers’ expense.
This is the same Minister whose budget we are expected to support today.
On the other hand, there has been deafening silence from the Parliamentary leadership towards the DA’s call for an urgent Ad Hoc Committee to conduct a Full Parliamentary Inquiry into the Minister, her officials and CPS.
We have received assurance from the Public Protector’s Office that they will give us feedback as the investigation on allegations of the Minister’s violation of the Executive Member’s Ethics Code, unfolds.
While the SASSA fiasco was unfolding, sending ripples of panic throughout the sector and the country at large, the rest of the Department of Social Development was crumbling – with social services employees going on strike and scores of NGOs closing down due to the non-payment of their subsidies.
This has left many NGOs having to scrape their meagre reserves to provide services to the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded in our society.
How then, can we entrust a budget to a Minister who has virtually put the Department and its entities under administration.
In keeping with our commitment to care for the poor and vulnerable, the DA will not stop to make louder calls for the Minister of Social Development to step down, seeing that she mysteriously survived the midnight Cabinet reshuffle of President Zuma.
Which once again proved that the ANC protects ineffectual leaders and do not care for the interests of our people.
In 2019, the DA-led government will ensure that the Department of Social Development will prioritise the people whose care it was established for – the poor, vulnerable and the excluded of our society.
South Africa’s poor, vulnerable and excluded deserve better and the DA is the only political party that can ensure that all our people receive equal access to opportunities within a fair society.
Thank you.