For SASSA and the almost 18 million people impacted, the stakes cannot be higher. The clock is ticking toward the 12-month deadline set by the Constitutional Court for the Social Security Agency to implement a transition of the R10 billion a month social assistance grants distribution process from the controversial Net1 subsidiary CPS, to the South African Post Office.

Magwaza, barely a year into his contract at the helm of SASSA, was caught in the crosshairs as he attempted to effect an order of the Constitutional Court, as well as implement a Treasury order that a parallel system or work streams worth R47 million be cancelled. He butted heads with the Minister on both fronts, in addition to contradicting her submission to the Constitutional Court where she attempted to pass the blame onto her Director-General and Magwaza for SASSA’s inaction to assume responsibility for grants payments per the original Constitutional Court order in 2014. Magwaza may yet testify against Dlamini in a public hearing, per the Constitutional Court ruling into whether she should be personally liable for the crisis SASSA finds itself in regarding a transition to a new service provider for grants distribution. Or perhaps the non-disclosure agreement he signed may limit his participation and the truth from emerging.

The political pressure on effective, honest and motivated public servants to bend the rules and accommodate corrupt masters has reached epidemic proportions, not least when death threats are issued against “intransigent” officials. The silence from the Minister’s office has predictably been deafening, save for a short statement stating that the termination of the contract was by “agreement”. The reasons for a breakdown in relations are clear and public.

Chair of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Accounts, Themba Godi, best sums up the views of many in his unremitting condemnation of the threats against Magwaza. He called on government to “protect Magwaza from the brazen lawlessness by a criminal gang of rent seekers who want to intimidate Mr Magwaza out of his job” (The Times,18 July 2017).

Yet again, a good man is lost to a system sorely in need of reform and remedial action.

By Ms Zohra Dawood: Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity  

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