Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini’s embattled department has spent nearly R30 million on legal costs since the 2013/14 financial year.
This was revealed by the department in a response to a DA parliamentary question on Wednesday. It also comes at a time when the Constitutional Court is considering whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for certain legal costs related to the social grants debacle.
According to Dlamini’s office, the amount of R30 million in legal costs since 2013 was spent mostly on appeals against decisions to reject applications for social assistance.
These appeals are usually instituted against the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) for turning down grant applications when applicants do not meet certain criteria.
Between 2013 and 2014, R10.2 million was spent on legal costs and, in the following year, almost R13 million. In the 2015/16 financial year it was much less, totalling only R3.3 million.
Dlamini was earlier ordered by the Constitutional Court to give reasons why she should not be held personally liable for wasted costs related to the ongoing legal dispute over the tender awarded to Cash Paymaster Services. In her reasons, she blamed certain senior officials such as the chief executive officer of Sassa, Thokozani Magwaza.
The Constitutional Court still has to decide about this matter, after Magwaza as well as the former director-general in Dlamini’s department, Zane Dangor, have filed affidavits disputing the minister’s version of events of how the Sassa crisis unfolded.
Meanwhile Sipho Shezi, the adviser fired by Dlamini this week, has indicated that he will not dispute his dismissal.
In response to inquiries, Shezi said that in terms of his contract, the minister can terminate it on one month notice.
“She exercised her right. I do not plan to challenge her decision. On the contrary, I’ve decided to let the whole matter go and to move on to fresh challenges which can advance my humble contribution to the development of this country.”
Dangor praised Shezi on social media and said he was leaving the job with his dignity and respect intact.
Dlamini previously accused Shezi of conspiring with Dangor, Magwaza as well as one of her former suitors in order to blackmail her close friend Lunga Ncwana.
Ncwana has been tied to the the department’s contract with Cash Paymaster Services, which was declared invalid by the Constitutional Court.
According to media reports last month, Shezi said that Dlamini ought to be fired, although she isn’t solely responsible for the grant payments debacle.
Although there is still no clarity about the official reasons for Shezi’s resignation, Dangor’s resignation letter gave insights into how tensions between him and Dlamini escalated.
Dlamini apparently belittled Dangor in front of staff and accused him of undermining the work and advancement of black women. She also accused him of being “macho and racist”, he said in the resignation letter.