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Judge Ngoepe to set start date for Sassa inquiry

The public inquiry is expected to reveal Minister Bathabile Dlamini's role in the scandal and her relationship with Thokozani Magwaza.

 Judge Bernard Ngoepe will oversee the inquiry into the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) social grants debacle. Picture: Twitter/@TaxOmbud

JOHANNESBURG - Judge Bernard Ngoepe will now have to set a date for the start of the South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants inquiry after he was named on Wednesday as the person who will oversee the process.

The public inquiry is expected to reveal Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini's role in the scandal and her relationship with former CEO Thokozani Magwaza.

The Constitutional Court has tasked Ngoepe with determining whether the Minister should pay the costs of the Sassa case brought against her and the department by civil rights groups including Black Sash and Freedom Under Law.

The groups raised concerns about government's handling of a controversial payments contract with Cash Paymaster Service and justices ruled the agreement could stand for a period of only 12 months.

Judge Ngoepe has been instructed by the court to look into a number of matters involving Dlamini and the role she played in the social grants crisis.

Black Sash and other parties involved in the case initially wanted retired deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke to oversee the inquiry but the minister was apparently not happy with that suggestion.

While Ngoepe will determine how the inquiry will be conducted, the Constitutional Court wants Dlamini to give evidence in person, saying thereafter she may call other witnesses.

The minister blamed Sassa officials for the grants crisis but her version of events was disputed by Magwaza, whose contract was suddenly terminated in July and ex-DG Zain Dangor.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)