Just when you think hapless social development minister Bathabile Dlamini could not embarrass herself any further, she wades into another scandal that would be enough to sink the career of any but the most shameless of politicians. Dlamini’s presence in a critical government portfolio remains a powerful emblem of the Jacob Zuma era, in which cronyism and blind loyalty have outweighed performance or competence. As head of the ANC Women’s League, her support has been vital for a besieged Zuma. Presumably this is why he didn’t fire her, even after she botched the social grants process so badly last year that it looked entirely conceivable that the 17m South Africans who rely on grants to eat might not get their monthly payments. Now, this week, we learnt that on the eve of the ANC’s national elective conference in December, Dlamini’s department paid the SA Broadcasting Corp (SABC) R500,000 to carry a "puff-piece" interview with her on Real Talk with Anele the minister’s considerable vi...

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