Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini will have to wait until next week to find out if her bid to be acquitted of perjury charges has succeeded.
Her trial kicked off in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court last month, with the state calling only one witness – former South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) chief executive Thokozani Magwaza – to the stand.
The defence then brought an application to have Dlamini acquitted – without it having to lead any evidence – arguing the state hadn’t made a case against her.
The hearing of that application continued onFriday with state advocate Jacob Serepo sticking to his guns, but judgment was reserved until next Friday.
The case relates to allegations that Dlamini lied under oath at an inquiry to, among others, probe her role in the Sassa crisis.
In 2018, the Constitutional Court slapped Dlamini with hefty personal costs over what it described as, at best, her “reckless and grossly negligent” conduct in the case the Black Sash brought against her over the state’s failure to appoint a new grants facilitator after its contract with Cash Paymaster Services was declared
This almost left 17 million grant beneficiaries in the country high and dry. After the Constitutional Court’s initial ruling, which saw it find in favour of the Black Sash and make an order for the payments to proceed, an inquiry was
instituted to investigate Dlamini’s role and help the bench come to a conclusion on the issue of costs.
Judge Bernard Ngoepe oversaw the inquiry and in his report found Dlamini to have been “evasive” as well as that she had not disclosed certain information for fear of being held personally liable.
In the end, the Constitutional Court issued Dlamini with a personal costs order and referred Ngoepe’s report to the prosecuting authorities to establish if she had lied under oath and should be prosecuted.
The charges she currently faces relate in particular to allegations that Dlamini lied when she said the workstream appointed to help Sassa did not report directly to her.
“She gave false evidence under oath,” Serepo said in court yesterday. “When the accused testified at the inquiry, she was sworn in and she undertook to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.”
Dlamini’s counsel, advocate Tshepiso Phahlane, countered that there was “no possibility of a conviction”.
“The prosecution submits the state has adduced overwhelming evidence against the accused, which calls upon the accused to rebut… There is no such evidence,” he said.
He was adamant that Magwaza’s evidence – that the workstreams reported to Sassa’s regional executive manager for North West and Limpopo Zodwa Mvulane, who updated the minister – did not support the charges
“I don’t know why we are here … The accused is charged and exposed to the public as a criminal – for doing what?” he said.