The Black Sash Trust and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies welcome the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Gauteng to prosecute former Minister Bathabile Dlamini for perjury or giving false evidence. The charges relate to her testimony during an inquiry instituted by the Constitutional Court into Ms Dlamini’s role in the social grants crisis several years ago. This decision sends the message that everyone is equal before the law and public officials must be held accountable for their actions.
In early 2018, Judge Bernard Ngoepe oversaw an inquiry established by the Constitutional Court into then-Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini’s role in the social grants crisis the previous year. The Centre for Applied Legal Studies represented the Black Sash Trust at the inquiry and presented evidence that the Minister had failed in her duties to ensure that SASSA was equipped to take over paying grants when an invalid contract with Cash Paymaster Services came to an end.
Judge Ngoepe later filed a report on the inquiry with the Constitutional Court which found the Minister had not only failed in her duties but had also failed to disclose information to the Court for fear of being held liable for the crisis in her personal capacity. The report describes Ms Dlamini as an “evasive” witness, answering simple questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or simply failing to answer at all.
The Constitutional Court handed down judgment in September 2018, finding Ms Dlamini’s conduct had been “reckless and grossly negligent” and ordering her to pay a portion of the costs of litigation brought by the Black Sash, represented by CALS, and joined by Freedom Under Law in an effort to protect the grants system. The Court further ordered that this judgment and Judge Ngoepe’s report be forwarded to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether Ms Dlamini lied under oath and should be prosecuted for perjury.
On 19 August 2021, CALS and the Black Sash Trust were informed that the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng Local Division in Johannesburg has decided to prosecute Ms Dlamini for perjury or alternatively for giving false evidence. A summons has been issued for her to appear in the Johannesburg Regional Court on 21 September 2021.
“Earlier this year, we noted that Minister Dlamini had finally complied with the Constitutional Court’s order to pay the legal costs she owed to our organisations,” says Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS. “The decision to prosecute her for perjury sends the message once again that everyone is equal before the law and even those occupying some of our highest offices must be held accountable for their actions.”
“This is a significant moment for holding public officials personally accountable for the execution of their duties and to protect the integrity of the social security system,” says Rachel Bukasa, executive director at the Black Sash Trust. “The Black Sash remains committed to its goal to ensure that the right to social security is fully realised. While are pleased that the COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant has been reinstated with the eligibility criteria expanded to include unemployed caregivers, we will continue to advocate for permanent social assistance for the unemployed while a universal basic income remains the ultimate aim.”
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