Cape Town – Parliament's watchdog committee Scopa on Monday condemned death threats allegedly made against Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza.
"It is shocking that the Minister of Social Development Ms Bathabile Dlamini has not said a word or stood in solidarity with Mr Magwaza, thus making him feel he is on his own," Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) chairperson Themba Godi said.
He said Magwaza on Sunday told him about the death threats he had received, for his work in ending the South Africa Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) contract with social grants distributor Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
Magwaza is currently leading negotiations with the South African Post Office (Sapo) for it to help Sassa distribute grants. He recently cancelled the contracts of the so-called "work streams" which Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini put in place three years ago.
"As Scopa, we are shocked and angry at what is evidently brazen lawlessness by a criminal gang of rent seekers who want to intimidate Mr Magwaza out of his job, so they can frustrate the Sassa-Sapo contract and instead open the door for the looting of public funds," Godi said.
"The fate of 17 million vulnerable and poor South Africans is at stake. This is an attack and sabotage of national interest for the benefit of an immoral and parasitic clique."
Magwaza was asked to "stay put and be steadfast in his post to serve the national interest".
Godi said Dlamini had to put government interests above personal considerations. He said Magwaza was right to terminate her "illegally-appointed work streams", which were working parallel to Sassa’s legal management.
National Treasury had declared their appointment irregular. The work streams had reportedly cost over R40m since their creation.
"Government must demonstrate seriousness about good governance and the fight against corruption. We cannot have managers forced out or suspended in order to facilitate corruption."
Godi condemned what he considered an orchestrated campaign to remove accounting officers who clashed with their political principals.
Two directors general of the departments of water and sanitation, and agriculture, forestry and fisheries were suspended this week for reportedly disagreeing with their political principals.
Social development department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant told News24 on Monday that the department has not received any official complaint about the threats from Sassa or Magwaza.
They had also not seen Scopa's statement at the time of publication, and would need to consult it.
The Daily Maverick revealed on Friday that a third party was pressuring Magwaza to accept a "lucrative exit package" to leave the agency. They had however refused to make him a written offer.
Former social development director general Zane Dangor resigned from the department in March, citing a breakdown in the relationship between himself and Dlamini. This was due to their disagreement about Sassa's legal obligations to the Constitutional Court.
Dangor's home was ransacked a week later. Nothing was taken, leading to suspicions that it was an attempt at intimidation. His domestic worker and 26-year-old son were both home at the time, and were injured.
Police did not open a case because nothing was taken from the home, News24 reported.