The running of the department of social development would have been a tough feat for any new minister. It certainly hasn’t been easy for Susan Shabangu, especially after the department of women in the presidency, which was inactive at the busiest of times.
Shabangu came in to the social development department at a time when the payment of social grants was in crisis. Although there was a sputtering start, grant payments have been mostly eventless. This is a big win for the department.
But, says the minister’s spokesperson, Thuli Nhlapo, more needs to be done. “I am not going to say things are perfect. There are challenges with Sapo [the South African Post Office], but we are addressing them. We have submitted our plans to the ConCourt. When we first started, there were no chairs or water for old people at some of the post offices. The aim is to build proper post offices starting in the rural areas.”
Shabangu has other issues to attend to as well. When the department presented its annual report to Parliament, it said it had failed to meet some of its targets, including conducting fraud awareness campaigns, especially for the informal-sector workers in social security.
The public accounts committee wanted to know how she was dealing with baggage left by her predecessor, Bathabile Dlamini, which includes the department providing personal security for former South African Social Security Agency chief executive Pearl Bengu, Lumka Oliphant and her children, and another former chief executive, Virginia Petersen, all of which was irregular.
“Susan said she was going to institute an investigation. She inherited a system where structures had collapsed. We are waiting for a pronouncement from the president,” Nhlapo said.
The department has maintained a clean audit this year.
Substance and drug abuse, human trafficking and dealing with rape are also key mandates to which the department has not paid adequate attention, according to Parliament.
Nhlapo admits that the department needs to put more effort into all its programmes. She said, because the Cash Paymaster Services problem was now largely out of the way, the real work of fulfilling the department’s mandate had begun.