Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini maintains that there was nothing "sinister or inappropriate" about her decision to make the "workstream" leaders report directly to her.
Dlamini was testifying at an inquiry into her personal role and liability in the social grants crisis in 2017, being held at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand on Monday morning.
The Constitutional Court appointed Judge Bernard Ngoepe to head the inquiry to investigate whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs incurred during the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) payment crisis.
The inquiry will investigate whether Dlamini sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various "workstreams" to report directly to her.
The three workstreams - which were "information and business management", "banking services and project management, legislative and policy requirements management", and "benefits and local economic development" - appeared to exist in parallel with the function of the department and Sassa.
The leaders of these workstreams acted as advisors to Dlamini, before they were appointed to lead the workstreams, a move that was said to be illegal and irregular.
Dlamini: I did not usurp Sassa's authority.— Phillip de Wet (@phillipdewet) January 22, 2018
Also Dlamini: I instructed #Sassa on who to appoint to workstreams.
Black Sash: So you usurped Sassa's authority?
Dlamini: "I don't see it that way."
As best I understand it, Dlamini's argument is that nobody complained to her about the people she ordered Sassa to employ, so she could not have usurped Sassa's authority over who to employ. (And thus she didn't lie under oath.)— Phillip de Wet (@phillipdewet) January 22, 2018
Further, the Constitutional Court ordered the inquiry to investigate the details of the appointments in terms of when the individuals were appointed, who they reported to, and the details of the dates and contents of the workstream's report to the minister. Lastly, the inquiry would look into why the minister did not disclose this information to the Constitutional Court.
In a witness statement submitted to the inquiry, Dlamini said: "It is true that I directed that the specific workstream leaders be appointed by Sassa to lead workstreams, and that the leaders of the workstreams would report directly to me during the implementation process. There is nothing sinister or inappropriate in this decision."
Former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza said, in an affidavit last year, that the workstreams were given a broad mandate to take over the implementation of the project and that Sassa was instructed not to interrupt or delay them in their work.
However, speaking through an interpreter on Monday morning, Dlamini denied that the workstreams were established to undermine the work of Sassa or interfere with its work.
She said she had directed workstream leaders to report directly to her because she "needed to be sure" about the work being done.
Dlamini testified that the workstream leaders were established due to their experience.
The hearings continue.