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Ministers clash about pensions - again

By Bheko Madlala, Daily News

 August 4, 2003

South Africa - National Minister of Welfare Zola Skweyiya and his KwaZulu-Natal counterpart Gideon Zulu have squared up for yet another bitter turf war after allegations that the latter was using his portfolio for political reasons.

The fresh row between the two comes after pensioners in Newcastle claimed their grants had not been renewed because they did not attend an IFP meeting.

According to weekend reports, hundreds of pensioners from the area said they were barred from presenting their case before an appeal board, which was in the town last week, because they did not show up at an Inkatha Freedom Party rally at Newcastle's Madadeni Stadium.

Skweyiya has reportedly decided to send a team to investigate the allegations, much to the chagrin of Zulu, who claimed Skweyiya should have consulted him.

"The minister is very disturbed about these allegations because Skweyiya has raised it through the media without informing the minister (Zulu)," said Zulu's spokesperson S'phiwe Maphumulo on Sunday night.

Maphumulo said Zulu had expressed unhappiness at the fact that a decision had been taken to send the team to the province without him being consulted.

"The minister has made it clear that even if they have decided to take a decision without informing him, he will continue with his job as mandated by the constitution. He is aware that there are elections coming up."

He said Zulu had since written a letter to Skweyiya voicing his concerns.

"We have since requested that the team should also include people from the province and that there should be no parachuting," he said.

Referring to the allegations that Zulu was using his portfolio as political bait, Maphumulo said that was "cheap politicking".

He said Zulu had always separated his party political work from government work and his conscience was clear.

Maphumulo said the pensioners were barred from attending the appeal board meeting at Newcastle because the minister wanted to deal with people with whom he had made prior arrangement, and not on the basis of their party political affiliation.

Earlier this year Zulu and Skweyiya were again at each others' throats after Skweyiya accused Zulu of stalling a massive project aimed at giving indigent families temporary relief.

The bold initiative, in which 150 000 South Africans were identified as beneficiaries, hit a snag in the province because of non-co-operation between the two.  

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