April Fools’ Day Sentence: Calls For Jail Time For Ex-Minister Bathabile Dlamini

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Former social development minister, Bathabile Dlamini, will be sentenced for lying under oath on April Fools’ Day.

On Wednesday, a day after International Women’s Day, Magistrate Betty Khumalo found Dlamini guilty of “lying under oath” in an inquiry about her role in the failure to pay grants on time.

Some have suggested that jailing Dlamini, the president of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League, would send the message that “everyone was equal before the law”.

Calls for her jailing are growing louder even though the 59-year-old gogo is pleading poverty and advanced age in mitigation.

Presiding over the matter in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court, Magistrate Khumalo said she was satisfied that Dlamini, in her written statement and oral testimony, gave false evidence under oath at the inquiry into the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) instituted by the Constitutional Court.

The inquiry chaired by former Judge President B.M Ngoepe, stemmed from a Constitutional Court application brought by Black Sash Trust, joined by Freedom Under Law over the SASSA and Dlamini’s failure to appoint a service provider for the distribution of social grants.

SASSA is a government entity responsible for distributing social grants to more than 16 million South Africans.

On Wednesday, Senior State Advocate Matthews Rampyapedi, pressed for a jail sentence, saying Dlamini was previously convicted of fraud related to a travel agency scandal.

As many as 23 MPs were investigated in 2004 for possible involvement in a conspiracy to have travel vouchers unlawfully cover additional costs such as car hire, hotel accommodation, and foreign exchange transactions.

After a plea deal, some of those convicted were fined while others were handed suspended sentences by the high court in Cape Town.

Dlamini paid R120 000 fine for her indiscretions, the court heard on Wednesday.

Senior State Advocate Rampyapedi further argued for jail time saying Dlamini committed the offence when she “held a high office within the public service and should have been exemplary”. 

He urged the court to impose a sentence that “will send a message that lying under oath cannot be tolerated”. 

After the guilty verdict, the case was postponed to 1 April 2022, for sentence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng Local Division, Advocate Andrew Chauke said he welcomed the verdict.

Commenting on the matter Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS said: “This decision highlights the duty placed on our public officials to act ethically and in the public interest at all times.”

Scher added: “Even those occupying our highest offices must be held to account for their actions.

“Perjury is not a victimless crime, especially for sitting cabinet ministers.

“In this case, Ms. Dlamini’s dishonesty contributed to an ongoing crisis in the social grants system that threatened the millions of beneficiaries who rely on it every month.”

Agreeing with the sentiments, Rachel Bukasa, executive director of the Black Sash Trust said: “It is high time that the South African judiciary starts to deliver on the promise that no one is above the law.

“Cases such as this will go a long way in ensuring that people start to believe that we are all equal before the law.”

On Thursday the ANC Women’s League released a terse statement, saying they had noted the ruling on the perjury case against “our President Cde Bathabile Dlamini” yesterday.

“We are currently studying the ruling and we are in no position to communicate anything with regards to the matter until further notice,” said the statement released by the ANC Women’s League Secretary General Meokgo Matuba.