The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to dismiss Minister Bathabile Dlamini from her post.
This follow’s Thursday’s decision by the Constitutional Court to hold the former social development minister personally liable for part of the legal costs in the Sassa saga.
The Court ruled that Minister Dlamini has to personally pay 20 percent of the legal costs incurred in the social grants application brought by the Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law, including the costs of two counsel.
It noted that the Minister’s “degree of culpability in misleading the Court” was “inimical to the values of the Constitution”. Stating that the Department of Social Development is “as much responsible for the realisation of rights outlined in the Constitution as this Court”, the judgement went on to say that as Minister of that portfolio, she had used her position to “place herself between constitutionally enshrined rights and those entitled to them”.
The ruling also specified that the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) should consider if Minister Dlamini lied under oath and whether she could be prosecuted for perjury.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, stated that in reference to the Ngoepe inquiry findings, yesterday’s judgement indicated that the Minister “allowed a parallel process to occur knowing that she withheld information that would lead to her being personally liable for the social grants disaster.” The judgement further stated that “the office which she occupied demands a greater commitment to ethical behaviour and requires a high commitment to public service”.
“That her conduct went against the values of the Constitution should lead us to question her fitness to continue serving as a public representative in our Cabinet. Even though she has been moved from the social development department, what assurances do we have that she will not once again act in a ‘reckless and grossly negligent’ manner as Minister of Women in the Presidency?” he questioned.
Balton stated that in February this year, the Foundation, as a member of the Future South Africa coalition, called for the “immediate removal of Bathabile Dlamini who has imperilled the provision of social grants”.
“In the same month, following the State of the Nation, address, we called on President Ramaphosa to ‘ensure that skilled and honest people are part of his Cabinet and that those who are ineffective or implicated in state capture are axed and brought to book’. Following the damning judgement against Minister Dlamini yesterday, we’re reiterating this call. It is an indictment having a public representative in office, representing South Africans, many of whom could have been without bread on their tables because of her actions.”
Speaking about the broader implications of the ruling, Balton said, “It sets precedent for holding to account others who may have abused their positions of power, but would have avoided responsibility, with the state paying for legal costs.
“The ruling makes it very clear that public representatives who act in a manner that is negligent or in bad faith to the Courts can be held personally accountable – something which is going to be an important element of rebuilding a state with integrity.
“What this ruling does, is that it affirms the rights of the most needy and vulnerable in society, over the dictates of public representatives who may imperil those rights,” Balton said.
He added, “We must congratulate Black Sash and Freedom Under Law on their victory, and commend them for fighting this fight. When Black Sash and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies filed an urgent application at the Constitutional Court in March last year on the Sassa issue, they in effect prevented mass scale disaster in this country. Millions of South Africans would have had their livelihoods endangered, and we really have these organisations to thank for averting the crisis.”
He indicated that it was now up to the NDPP to take the matter forward. “Currently, we have an acting NDPP following the Constitutional Court ruling declaring the appointment of Shaun Abrahams invalid. We hope that whoever is going to be appointed in this position, is someone who has integrity, and who is up to task of acting firmly and speedily on the outcomes of the judgement.”