Shock as Sassa chief quits after threats

Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) and Corruption Watch have questioned the sudden resignation of South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Thokozani Magwaza.

Thokozani Magwaza

Following reports that his life was under threat‚ Magwaza has left the organisation.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced yesterday that she and Magwaza had agreed to terminate his services after a consultative process.

“The department would like to thank Mr Magwaza for the role he played as the CEO of Sassa and wish him well‚” the department said in a statement.

Magwaza clashed with Dlamini over the handling of the payment of social grants as the contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) neared its end on March 31.

Magwaza is likely to testify against Dlamini in a public hearing set up to probe whether she should be liable to pay the costs from her own pocket for the payment crisis.

Magwaza also recently cancelled “work streams” set up by the minister to find the best solution for the payment of grants after Treasury indicated that the R47-million spent on them was irregular.

Magwaza refused to comment about his departure from Sassa yesterday afternoon.

Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant‚ did not want to expand on the statement and did not give answers on when a replacement for Magwaza would be announced.

Oliphant said all the announcements would be communicated in due course.

The resignation of Magwaza also comes amid a Constitutional Court judgment in March requiring Sassa and the minister to periodically file reports with the court every three months‚ setting out how they plan to ensure the payment of social grants in-house after the expiry of the 12-month extension of CPS’ services ordered by the court.

In April‚ Magwaza told the Constitutional Court that Dlamini had known since July 2015 of inadequacies in Sassa’s ability to pay grant recipients on its own.

Furthermore‚ Magwaza said Dlamini was in control of the process of Sassa taking over grant payments.

She appointed individuals who reported directly to her‚ Magwaza said in an affidavit filed with the court.

David Lewis‚ executive director of Corruption Watch‚ said there were a number of recent reports about Magwaza receiving death threats. “The minister has failed to comment.”

Lewis said Magwaza had taken over the task of sorting out the mess at Sassa.

He said Magwaza was the person who was leading negotiations with the SA Post Office (SAPO ) to take over the payment of the grants from Cash Paymaster Services.

“We would be entitled to ask whether he had been pressurised to resign to derail those negotiations‚” Lewis said.

Scopa chairman Themba Godi said the committee was shocked and upset about this development.

“We think this should not have happened for the sake of stability.”

Added Godi: “As Scopa‚ we are shocked and angry at what is evidently brazen lawlessness by a criminal gang of rent seekers who want to intimidate Mr Magwaza out of his job so they can frustrate the Sassa/SAPO contract and instead open the door for the looting of public funds.” — DDC