Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says her children were in danger and receiving threats, hence she sought private security for them.
She was mum however, when probed by MPs as to why she did not seek police protection or pay the private security from her own pocket.
The bill for the private security was paid by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which is responsible for the payment of social welfare grants to the poor.
The Sassa management and Auditor-General found the R3.5 million spent on private security by the agency as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
It’s not clear however how much of the R3.5 million was spent to protect Dlamini’s children.
“There is an amount, chair,” confirmed Dlamini when pressed by chairperson of Parliament’s public accounts committee Themba Godi on whether, out of the R3.5 million, there was any amount incurred in protecting her children.
Dlamini revealed that there was a recommendation that Lumka Oliphant – her spokesperson – be provided with necessary security measures by the department of social development to mitigate any possible risks to her physical security. Dlamini said this was in a police report to the director-general of social development.
Dlamini spoke of how she had to hire an au pair to drive her children to school and to other extra mural activities following the threats.
“I have the experience of government. When your kids are phoned by someone who is in prison that is a big challenge. That is what happened,” she said.
“But I have hired someone [an au pair] to take my children to school, games, whatever because I don’t want to use government cars for my children,” she said.
She revealed that during that period of threats there were three burglaries at the place she stayed in with her children despite the police guards in the area. Dlamini said after the last burglary they had to move because the burglars had removed the windows.
She said she never hired the security but that there was an agreement with the senior management of her department that because government processes take long, Sassa would provisionally provide security and then when the police submitted their report, they would move over.
Dlamini added that women would understand how a mother would feel when her children were facing threats.
MPs sympathised, but they were scathing on the bending of rules.
They wanted to know whether Dlamini forced officials in her department and at Sassa to act unlawfully.
“You know full well that your protection [falls] under [the South African Police Service]. Any danger or threat against you, you inform the police and they then discharge their responsibilities,” said Economic Freedom Fighters MP Veronica Mente.
“But now you are provided private security by your department and, in your position, you know this is not supposed to be the case. Did you inform them to take their security or did you accept the security at your house, knowing that the department will have to pay them – which they are not supposed to do,” asked Mente.
“Why did you accept the security from the department, knowing that the department would incur costs,” she asked, before adding: “We must then hold you responsible and you must refund the money of protecting your own children.”
The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa feared that MPs might make a decision on the matter based on sympathy, sentiments and emotions. He warned: “Let’s zoom in on the people who aided and abetted the transaction, knowing it was wrong. When you process this, where do you allocate it in the budget?”
Godi noted that it was well and good that the children were are safe, but in relation to public funds “we should be guided by principle and the law as it stands in terms of who and what should have happened”.
He said if the chief financial officer used Sassa money and bought food because his family was starving it would not make it right.
According to a Sassa document presented to Scopa yesterday, R3.5 million was under investigation – this related to VIP protection services paid for by the agency. The document stated that the transaction was approved by the former accounting authority (Virginia Petersen) and that the department of social development and Sassa were in discussions to finalise the matter.