Pensioners wait in a queue at a Sassa pay point in Mpumalanga. Picture: SOWETAN
Pensioners wait in a queue at a Sassa pay point in Mpumalanga. Picture: SOWETAN

Sipho Shezi, the axed former special adviser to Bathabile Dlamini when she was still minister of social development, is suing the department for R1.1m.

Dlamini fired Shezi in April 2017. Shezi, along with other officials, had tried to find a way of ensuring that the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) could pay social grants without having to use Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

At the time, he said Dlamini had informed him in a letter that his services were no longer needed. However, she did not give him reasons.

Shezi has now approached the High Court in Pretoria. The matter is expected to be heard on Thursday.

Shezi’s legal counsel team says the department had earlier indicated it would oppose the application, but so far this had not happened.

Shezi worked closely with former department director-general Zane Dangor on finding a solution to the grants debacle earlier in 2017.

Dangor resigned at the height of the crisis, citing a breakdown in the relationship between him and Dlamini.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a reshuffle of the Cabinet he inherited from former president Jacob Zuma, removed Dlamini from the Department of Social Development, replacing her with Susan Shabangu.

Illegal new contract

Former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza and Dangor have laid the blame for the social-grants debacle at Dlamini’s feet, while she herself has blamed Magwaza.

Dlamini and a few hand-picked advisers had emerged as the clique that constructed the illegal new contract with CPS, excluding department and Sassa officials in the process.

Over the past year, Sassa twice approached the Constitutional Court after the agency failed to put plans in place to take over the administration of social grants.

In the most recent court judgment, the apex court was forced to grant a six-month extension of Sassa’s contract with CPS for the management of cash payments of social grants to 2.5-million beneficiaries.

Part of the order was an instruction for Dlamini and acting Sassa CEO Pearl Bhengu to file affidavits with the court motivating why they should not be joined to proceedings in their personal capacities and pay the costs themselves. Dlamini and Bhengu had until Monday to file their affidavits.

Sassa confirmed that Bhengu had submitted her affidavit to the court. It was not clear if Dlamini had filed her affidavit.

This comes as Dlamini is facing an inquiry into whether she should be personally liable for the costs associated with the 2017 Constitution Court hearing of the social grant matter.

The inquiry, mandated by the Constitutional Court and headed by judge Bernard Ngoepe, is yet to make a finding.