Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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Bathabile Dlamini faces jail term for perjury

  • The State wants Bathabile Dlamini to serve jail time or, at the very least, pay a hefty fine. 
  • Dlamini was found guilty of perjury for lying under oath in a 2017 inquiry.
  • The State contends it is unforgivable that Dlamini’s transgressions occurred while tasked with “taking care of the country’s most impoverished and downtrodden”. 

The State wants the harshest possible punishment for former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini after she was found guilty of lying under oath in a 2017 inquiry into the social grants debacle at the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa). 

During mitigation of sentencing proceedings on Wednesday, State prosecutor Matthews Rampyapedi said it was unforgivable that Dlamini’s transgressions occurred while she was spearheading a department tasked with “taking care of the country’s most impoverished and downtrodden”.

He asked the court to severely punish Dlamini, in order to deter other public servants from committing similar offences. 

“When one looks at the position held by the accused at the time, she was the minister of social development at a national level. If this kind of practice can be done at such level, what then should become of any Tom, Dick and Harry down there?

Rampyapedi said:At the pinnacle of this offence, Your Worship, is accountability. We expect a certain standard of honesty in our public servants – not only ministers or the president, but all public servants. 

“At that point, she [Dlamini] was not only taking care of a department that is taking care of our impoverished and downtrodden… if the court really takes that into consideration, I really think we would be making a mockery of justice if a harsher sentence is not meted. 

“If we were to come to court every day and listen to people lying and, at the end of the day, just pat them on the back and say we heard you were lying there, but it is fine, we will see what we will do about it, then we [as legal practitioners] might as well just stay at home.

“Therefore, it is imperative that the community out there should see the justice system at work. And a very good point to start is in cases like this. That perspective out there that the law is only there to protect the rich and the politically connected can only be dispelled.

“The effects of the sentence should be felt as far away as Cape Town, where our parliamentarians are sitting. It should be felt as far as Mahlamba Ndlopfu, in Pretoria, [the official residence of the president of the Republic of South Africa] or at the Union Buildings or everyone else who has been entrusted with serving our people.

“And our submission, as the State, is that imprisonment is not far-fetched. If the court feels that this is harsh, then we submit that a hefty fine should be imposed. Failure of which she should go and serve time.”

Dlamini’s legal representative, Tshepiso Mphahlane, pleaded with the court to be lenient.

He said his client was a pensioner and a single mother, who had to take care of an extended family. 

Mphahlane said there were not many cases of perjury that he could cite, and very few led to a jail term. 

He asked that the magistrate, Betty Khumalo, give Dlamini a suspended fine, given that her job as ANC Women’s League president, which pays R70 000 a month, was coming to an end. She would then be left with an income of R40 000 as a retired Member of Parliament. 

Dlamini’s allies, who include suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni, former minister Des van Rooyen and Women’s League members, said the transgression did not warrant anything more than a suspended fine. 

Her allies said Dlamini’s prosecution and conviction were politically motivated as there was “a push to disband the Women’s League and ensure that a more pro-Ramaphosa person is placed at the helm”.

Dlamini was on Wednesday found guilty of perjury by Khumalo for lying under oath during a 2017 inquiry into Sassa, which saw millions of grant beneficiaries unsure whether they would receive their money.

Khumalo found the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt that the former minister had lied under oath. 

Khumalo found the inquiry qualified as a formal judicial process, despite Dlamini’s defence team arguing last month that she should not be found guilty of perjury because Section 38 proceedings, such as the Ngoepe Inquiry, were not formal judicial ones. 

The magistrate said:I am satisfied that she testified and gave false evidence during the inquiry instituted by the Constitutional Court into the 2017 inquiry into the social grants debacle at the SA Social Security Agency.

“All the evidence points to the minister, the accused herein, having at least two or three meetings with the workstreams at their instances, which will mean meetings of the workstream or meeting with workstreams. 

“I am, therefore, satisfied that the State has succeeded, beyond a reasonable doubt, to prove the case against the accused on the main count.”

Sentencing was postponed to 1 April. 

–News24

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