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The state says it has proved that former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini is guilty of perjury.
Dlamini was charged with perjury after a Constitutional Court judgment in 2018 after an inquiry into whether she should pay costs in her personal capacity for the social grants payments debacle.
One of the issues the inquiry — headed by retired Gauteng judge president Bernard Ngoepe — investigated was whether Dlamini had appointed work streams of the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to ensure Sassa could take over the payment of social grants from Cash Paymaster Services.
The Constitutional Court said the inquiry found that Dlamini appointed individuals to lead the parallel work streams and those individuals reported to her. The work streams were supposed to report to the Sassa executive committee, not to the minister.
Dlamini denied under oath during the inquiry that she appointed the work streams and that they reported to her.
This led to the Constitutional Court directing its registrar to forward its judgment and a copy of the Ngoepe report to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether to prosecute Dlamini for perjury.
After the state closed its case in 2021, Dlamini asked for the case against her to be discharged. That application was refused.
Dlamini did not testify, but her legal team called former project head at Sassa Zodwa Mvulane to testify.
In closing arguments before the Johannesburg magistrate’s court on Wednesday, prosecutor Jacob Serepo said Dlamini had taken an oath at the Ngoepe inquiry and promised to tell the truth.
Dlamini confirmed the contents of her statement to that inquiry.
“At the time she confirmed the correctness of the statement, which was unsigned, to be a true reflection of what she was saying. She confirmed this under oath.”
In that statement, Dlamini said it was not contractually required that the work stream leaders report directly to her and they did not do so.
Dlamini said during November 2016 a number of meetings were held between the work streams and Sassa executives and she did not attend them. She monitored the process through updates from Mvulane as to the progress of the work streams and their ability to meet the deadlines.
Serepo said Dlamini was aware that the written statement she made was under oath as well as the oral testimony. “Furthermore, the statements were submitted in the course of judicial proceedings.”
Serepo said Dlamini decided against testifying during the trial to explain the lies that were allegedly told unknowingly. “Therefore, she is the only person to give this explanation. She could have taken the court into her confidence to say, ‘How I understood it was this and according to me I was not lying or it was just a mistake’. We do not have such evidence.”
Former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza testified before the magistrate’s court that during his era, work streams never reported to Sassa and/or its executive committee.
Serepo said Magwaza testified that work streams reported directly to Dlamini, as the minister, at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park and in Cape Town.
Mvulane testified that work streams reported directly to Dlamini in two meetings and on several occasions through her as leader of the work streams.
“This ... is in contrast [to] the evidence of the accused before the inquiry, hence the charges that were preferred by the state.”
Closing arguments continue before magistrate Betty Khumalo.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.