Thu, 20 Jun 2019

ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini is the latest former minister to walk away from a seat as a Member of Parliament.

Dlamini, who previously served as Minister of Women in the Presidency and Minister of Social Development, was one of the controversial names on the ANC's list of candidates for Parliament heading into the sixth democratic term.

The party was criticised for refusing to remove her and several others who returned as MPs under a cloud of allegations of impropriety or of a poor track record in their departments.

Though she has left the hallowed halls of the parliamentary precinct, Dlamini's tenure was anything but ordinary.

Here are five infamous moments Dlamini had while she was a minister in Parliament:

The social grants crisis

Dlamini's tenure as a minister will most likely be associated with the social grants crisis she oversaw at the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).

In her capacity as minister of social development, Dlamini failed to affect government's plan to take over payment of South Africa's social grants by March 31, 2017 as ordered by the Constitutional Court - the date when Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was due to be phased out.

The contract with CPS was renewed for another two years on March 6, 2017 but the Constitutional Court held Dlamini primarily responsible for the crisis. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng said there was no explanation for the incompetence displayed by her and Sassa.

Using Sassa funds to pay for private security for her children

Dlamini revealed during a parliamentary committee meeting in May 2017 that she had requested the use of agency funds to hire protection for her family following various threats to their safety in 2014/15.

In a reply to DA MP Bridget Masango, the office of then social development minister Susan Shabangu revealed the amount spent during the period, and that Sassa processes were under way to recoup the money, News24 reported.

"Sassa paid security services for the former minister's children in the year 2014/15. Amount spent was R 2 008 086," the reply read.

Responding to questions about this irregular arrangement, Dlamini said "some people understand government more than others," and that she had to resort to private security due to the fact that "government processes take a long period".

Overseas trips

The Department of Women in the Presidency, under the leadership of Dlamini, spent millions of rand on overseas trips and accommodation.

News24 previously reported that ANC MP Grace Tseke, said in 2018 that she "can't write a good story" about the Department of Women in the Presidency.

The national dialogue on gender-based violence in the Eastern Cape cost R1.78m, with R496 887.30 going to the facilitator. A similar event in Mpumalanga had a bill of R1.41m, with R496 631,50 going to the facilitator.

A departmental delegation of eight also took a trip to New York for the 62nd Conference on the Commission on the Status of Women, which cost more than R2m. Of this amount, R1.168m went to accommodation and ground transport, while air travel cost R756 336, and travel and subsistence R125 591,16.

At the time, acting director general Reshoketswe Tshabalala said the trips weren't "just gallivanting" but that South Africa had signed several treaties and was therefore obligated to attend these events.

The Witness also previously reported that by 2012, Dlamini spent 166 nights in luxury hotels in two years at a cost of more than R750000.

At the time, Dlamini said the opposition DA - which made the issue public - was being mischievous.

She said during the period in question, she had no official residence in Cape Town, and that the places she stayed in included guest houses - not expensive hotels as suggested.

Absenteeism

At the height of the social grants crisis, Dlamini frustrated many MPs on the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, often being absent from regular sittings to discuss the social grants transition.

On October 24, 2017, her department and Sassa had to explain their progress in resolving the crisis at Sassa to a joint meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) and the Portfolio Committee on Social Development.

This, after the portfolio committee even considered summonsing Dlamini and her department after they gave the committee, as well as Scopa the cold shoulder a week before.

On that day, Dlamini was nowhere to be seen again in the committee room.

She sent a letter to the chairpersons, Rose Capa and Themba Godi, to excuse herself, saying she was attending a week-long "Active Agent" seminar in KwaZulu-Natal.

R500k interview with the SABC

Dlamini and her department came under fire after reports surfaced that the department was paying R500 000 to the SABC for an interview on .

The SABC confirmed in January last year that the department had paid it for an interview featuring Dlamini and her spokesperson, Lumka Oliphant, on in December 2017.

One of the executive producers of the talk show at the time told News24 it was not uncommon for people to pay for exposure on .

SABC acting group CEO Nomsa Philiso however said selling interviews was not normal practice, especially since politicians belonged in news and not entertainment shows.

At the time, Oliphant denied anything was amiss and said that, through the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the department buys media space to market and advertise the minister, the department and its agencies.

"To date, through [the] GCIS, the department has transferred more than R5m to the SABC for this purpose and we will not be apologetic for investing in the SABC."

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