Thokozani Magwaza.   Picture: SUPPLIED
Thokozani Magwaza. Picture: SUPPLIED

The tumultuous saga of the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) takeover of social grants took a new twist on Monday when Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini announced that the contract of the agency’s CEO, Thokozani Magwaza, had been terminated by “agreement”.

The termination could take immediate effect from Tuesday, if the minister finalised several details, Magwaza said.

Insiders say the termination was due to the irretrievable breakdown in the relationship between Dlamini and Magwaza, which deteriorated after his cancellation of workstreams worth R47m, which the minister had set up to manage Sassa’s takeover of the payment of social grants.

The workstreams reported directly to the minister and acted in parallel with the work of Sassa employees.

Magwaza has faced death threats since his cancellation of the workstreams, which the Treasury ruled were irregular. He refused to disclose the reasons for his departure, referring all queries to the department.

A similar breakdown in Dlamini’s relationship with the former director-general of the Department of Social Development, Zane Dangor, resulted in his resignation in March. In April the minister fired her special adviser, Sipho Shezi.

The departure of Magwaza, who took over as CEO in November 2016, will engender leadership instability in the agency, which has been repeatedly rocked by scandals for more than a year.

It could hold back Sassa’s preparations for the takeover of social grants from Net1 subsidiary Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) in April 2018 as Magwaza was driving the process.

Magwaza has been a thorn in Dlamini’s side for some time, refusing to take her interference in the management of Sassa lying down.

He contradicted her submission to the Constitutional Court that he was to blame for Sassa’s unpreparedness for the grants payment takeover, saying in an affidavit to the court that she was the cause of the problems.

Magwaza is believed to be preparing an affidavit for submission to the inquiry into whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the legal costs arising from Sassa’s lack of preparation for the takeover.

Sassa’s unreadiness to take over the payment of social grants from CPS on March 31 when its contract expired meant that the CPS contract had to be extended for a year with the authorisation of the Constitutional Court, which is exercising oversight of Sassa’s takeover preparations.

DA spokeswoman on social development Bridget Masango said the departure of the competent Magwaza would further complicate the takeover process. She said the breakdown in the relationship between the minister and Magwaza related to his cancellation of the workstreams.

“One can pick up any number of reasons why this has happened, but it boils down to the fact that the relationship has soured. Its just another delaying tactic on the part of the minister at this critical stage,” she said.

Inkatha Freedom Party spokeswoman on social development Liezl van der Merwe said the death threats against Magwaza were “apparently from members of the ruling party in KwaZulu-Natal, which is a clear indication that he is being punished for exposing the minister’s questionable practices as head of the Department of Social Development”.

Dlamini’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, would not say anything more about the reasons for Magwaza’s departure other than what was contained in the department’s terse statement, saying this was because the matter of the takeover was in the hands of the Constitutional Court. According to the statement, Dlamini and Magwaza had agreed to the termination of his services “after a consultative process led by the head of legal services, advocate Nkosinathi Dladla, in terms of the provisions of his contract of employment”.

Sassa spokesman Paseka Letsatsi referred all media inquiries to the Department of Social Development.

Magwaza joined the department in 2013 as deputy director-general: comprehensive social security. In April 2015, he was appointed the department’s acting director-general. 

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