The perjury trial against former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini has been postponed yet again.
The first witness was expected to testify at the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on Thursday.
This is after the trial was adjourned by Magistrate Betty Khumalo on Wednesday morning after the state made a request for a postponement.
The state sought the postponement because it had not yet prepared its witnesses for examination.
Advocate Jacob Serepo, who represents National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), told the court that the state wanted to call two witnesses – Zodwa Mvulane and Thokozani Magwaza – in the trial.
During Thursday’s proceeding, Serepo said the state wanted another postponement, this time to 2022.
“We request an adjournment until sometime next year due to other commitments that we already have,” he said.
Serepo said the state had to make arrangements to bring Magwaza to Johannesburg, as he resides in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), but they were unable to reach him.
Dlamini’s attorney, advocate Tshepiso Phahlane, however, vented his frustration with the state not being ready.
He asked Magistrate Khumalo to reject the state’s postponement application.
“There are costs involved for the three days on which this trial was set. I respectfully submit that we have no option, but to refuse the granting of the application,” Phahlane told the court.
Khumalo said she did not understand why the state was asking for a postponement, but she adjourned proceedings to 8.30am on Friday.
“I am of the view that it would be in the interest of justice and fair that at this point that we utilise all the dates that have been put aside. Therefore, it is this court’s ruling that this matter be rolled to tomorrow. The state must ensure it secures this outstanding witness that it intends to call to be here,” the magistrate said.
Dlamini pleaded not guilty to the perjury charge relating to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) 2017 crisis.
The former minister has been accused of lying under oath during her testimony at a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) 2017 inquiry into the grant crisis.
According to Daily Maverick, the state’s charge sheet focuses on what Dlamini said under oath at the inquiry, where the former minister claimed to have had no influence on the workstreams at Sassa.
“Whereas in truth and in fact, the accused well knew that this was not the truth, but that she had in fact directed that the workstreams must report directly to her, and that in fact the said workstreams did report to her as directed and/or she in fact attended meeting/s in relation to operations of the said workstreams whereupon she was briefed and or advised about the work and/or progress of the said workstreams,” the charge sheet read.
The inquiry was instituted in 2018 by the ConCourt over an unlawful contract between the Sassa and its former grants distributor, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
The inquiry, which was chaired by Judge Bernard Ngoepe, found that Dlamini not only failed in her duties as minister, but also failed to disclose information to the inquiry for fear of being held liable for the 2017 crisis.
She paid R650,000 earlier this year.