The Black Sash Trust and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies note that today the former Minister of Social Development has been sentenced following her perjury conviction last month. The Johannesburg Magistrates Court has sentenced Ms Dlamini to four years imprisonment or a R200,000 fine. This represents the end of a four year struggle to hold a senior public official accountable for her actions while in office.
On 1 April 2022, the Johannesburg Magistrates Court handed down sentence in the perjury trial of former Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini. Less than a month ago, Ms Dlamini was found guilty by magistrate Betty Khumalo of giving false evidence under oath during a 2018 section 38 inquiry established by the Constitutional Court. The purpose of the inquiry was to determine the then-Minister’s role in the social grants crisis the year before which placed millions of grant beneficiaries at risk.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) represented the Black Sash Trust at the inquiry and presented evidence that the Minister had failed in her duties and had purposefully misled the Court to avoid being held to account for these failures. The inquiry report describes Ms Dlamini as an evasive witness who failed to disclose information to the Court for fear of being held personally liable. The Constitutional Court later handed down judgment finding the Minister’s conduct had been “grossly negligent” and ordering her to pay a portion of the costs of the litigation brought against her.
The Court further ordered that the judgment and the inquiry report be forwarded to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether Ms Dlamini lied under oath and should be prosecuted for perjury. Nearly four years later, in August 2021, we were informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng Local Division in Johannesburg had decided to prosecute Ms Dlamini for perjury and her first court appearance would take place in the Johannesburg Regional Court within one month.
On 9 March 2022, magistrate Betty Khumalo found Ms Dlamini guilty of perjury for having “knowingly and intentionally disposed of false evidence” before the section 38 inquiry. Today, in delivering sentence, Ms Khumalo emphasised that the former Minister’s conduct was dishonest and erodes the confidence society places in our public servants. The Court sentenced Ms Dlamini to four years’ imprisonment or a R200,000 fine, considering Ms Dlamini’s financial circumstances and that her presidency of the ANC Women’s League may come to an end in June. Ms Dlamini has reportedly opted to pay the fine, and payment in full must be made by 29 April 2022 to avoid imprisonment.
“This is the final step on a long road to accountability,” says Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS. “We have been pleased to watch the justice system at work to show that even those occupying some of our highest public offices must be held responsible for their conduct – whether by having to pay the costs of litigation or through criminal sanction.”
CALS and the Black Sash Trust continue to advocate for basic income support for those aged 18 to 59.
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