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News

Minister Bathabile Dlamini in R300m tender row

A controversial move to “reshuffle” provincial heads of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) has got Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini on a collision course with senior managers who accuse her of meddling in an attempt to control R300-million worth of food parcel tenders.

This happened at the same time the department had awarded the tenders to three KwaZulu-Natal- based companies to supply food parcels to five provinces – Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Western Cape. Dlamini is from KwaZulu-Natal.

As a result, eight provinces, with the exception of KZN, currently have acting provincial heads, as those who seemed not to support her plans were “reshuffled” or put on special leave.

Eastern Cape provincial Sassa head Sakhumzi Yawa was placed on special leave, while Western Cape’s Waldemar Terblanche and Mpumalanga’s Moffat Mogane left their posts under a cloud.

It was not clear what happened to other provincial heads, but according to the Sassa website, these eight provinces have acting provincial managers. However, a few months after Yawa, Terblanche and Mogane’s removal from their posts early in the year, three KZN-based companies were given letters to supply food parcels to the five provinces.

Sowetan’s sister newspaper, Daily Dispatch, has the letters, which were signed in August by current acting Sassa Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Raphaahle Ramokgopa.

The newspaper’s investigation reveals that one of the directors of the companies awarded the tender had two ID numbers. Another director lied when she claimed that she had offices in East London at 8 St Michaels Road in Southernwood , while the third was not even aware that he was going to supply food parcels to other provinces.

An official of Sita security company, which occupies the offices, said: “8 St Michaels Road offices are our offices and we have no knowledge of a new company or a person who will run his or her business here.”

The appointed companies are Ikamvalamakhabela Trading and Projects from Umzimkhulu, KZT Trading Enterprise – owned by a KZN businessman from Greytown – and Dawn-Don Trading Enterprise – owned by an Umzimkhulu-born businessman. Asked for a response, Dlamini’s spokeswoman Lumka Oliphant said the minister did not have the powers to suspend Sassa officials.

She said only the agency’s CEO could do that. “You can’t claim that those officials have been removed by the minister, no. Sassa CEO has that mandate, not the minister,” Oliphant said.

All nine provinces had an annual budget of up to R60-million each for the food parcels – totalling R500-million. The parcels would be distributed to destitute and needy people in each province.

Reliable sources said the food parcels had previously been sourced from local service providers. However, officials from the national Sassa office alleged that Dlamini sent the agency’s former CEO Virginia Petersen to visit all provinces to tell senior managers about a planned reshuffle.

The sources said the move to rotate senior executive managers was strongly advised against.

“For instance, the Free State executive manager was to be moved to the Western Cape and the Western Cape manager to another province. The Eastern Cape head was to be moved to Limpopo and the Limpopo one to somewhere else,” the source said.

“But this never affected the KwaZulu-Natal executive manager. We told them that this was never seen before, we are not a cabinet, you can’t just chop and change.

“What’s the motive behind this, why reshuffle, why rotate most senior staff members like this?” asked the source.

The source further said the reshuffling or rotating of senior managers was to make way for a new system of sourcing food parcels. “Sassa Eastern Cape has to source food parcels for 10 families in rural Cradock from a company that is up in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, a thousand kilometres away. How’s this going to happen? Why don’t we have a company nearby that will supply food parcels faster?”

An Eastern Cape-based former Sassa employee said that food had previously been sourced from districts. “We could not even source food from an East London-based company while we were working in Queenstown,” said the source.

The source said Yawa and Terblanche, who had refused to move, were within their rights.

“The plan was: as they arrive in their new offices they will arrive to a concocted plan where they won’t be able to oppose. Immediately after that, new companies will come and render services, where they won’t have a word because the same companies are employed by the national office,” said a source.

Yawa refused to comment, referring questions to national office.

The source said it was not possible for KZN companies to deliver food parcels to different provinces immediately after a disaster.

“There are capable companies who can do the work in these provinces, who have done similar work in the past,” the source said.

Sassa’s national spokesman Paseka Letsatsi failed to respond to questions sent on Friday.