The perjury case against former Social Development Minister, Bathabile Dlamini has been remanded to tomorrow. Dlamini appeared before the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court today for her role in the 2017 social grant crisis.
The state applied for the perjury case against Dlamini be remanded, arguing that its witnesses had not been consulted.
According to State Advocate, Jacob Serepo, the first witness in the case, Sassa Regional Executive Manager in the North West Zodwa Mvulane had failed to respond to messages on numerous occasions despite being subpoenaed and was moving between Limpopo and the North West. The state also submitted that the second witness, former Sassa CEO, Thokozani Magwaza had provided a contact number that went unanswered on various occasions and was based in KwaZulu-Natal.
Perjury case against Bathabile Dlamini has been postponed to Thursday:
Defence Advocate, Tshepiso Phahlane opposed the application for the matter to be remanded saying the reasons advanced are purely administrative.
“The prosecution is not setting out good grounds for you to consider in order to decide whether to grant a remand or not. The reasons advanced are purely administrative. Mrs Dlamini was summoned to appear before you last month. She did, she came. The matter was postponed in order for the prosecution and the defence to (avail) themselves before trial. On the last occasion, you asked if the prosecution was ready to proceed. They confirmed, we also confirmed that we were ready to proceed. And we came here ready to proceed with the trial. One would’ve expected that when the state said they were ready for trial, they had consulted, they knew which witnesses to call. But today, they ask you to give them indulgence so that they can then decide if they’re going to call the witness they have subpoenaed or not. It’s unacceptable.”
The former Social Development minister pleaded not guilty to the perjury charges against her. The case relates to her testimony at an inquiry established by the Constitutional Court into her role in the 2017 social grant crisis.
The inquiry headed by Judge Bernard Ngoepe investigated whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the cost of the Sassa debacle. The judge found that Dlamini had been evasive when questions were put to her during the inquiry. This after the Constitutional Court had declared the contract between the company tasked with the distribution of social grants, Cash Paymaster Services’ (CPS) and Sassa illegal and invalid.
Despite the state’s previous indication that it was ready to proceed with the case, Magistrate Betty Khumalo says the one-day delay is not prejudicial to the defence.
“Much as I’m also surprised that the state has found itself in this position, but I must say that I’m comforted and consoled that this is not the only day and maybe it was an oversight on the part of the state to not alert the defence about the predicament, which I’m also not finding to be a good oversight at this point. But be that as it may, I don’t think that the request for indulgence at this stage is too unreasonable. When I listened to the state’s submission, this could have not been something that they wanted and that this was not foreseen by them that all of a sudden, their witnesses… I’m inclined to indulge the state.”
The report and transcripts have been handed in to the court as evidence.
NPA Spokesperson, Phindi Mjonodwana says this will be important with the commencement and progression of the trial.
“It was important that those records be submitted as exhibits that can be used because remember that the case is about the accused testimony in the inquiry that was chaired by former Judge President, Ngoepe. So, it was of importance that those records be submitted so that both the state and the defence can easily use it as reference in leading and cross-examination of evidence.”
Dlamini made her first court appearance in September after the Director of Public Prosecutions in Gauteng decided to prosecute her for perjury.
She’s expected back in court on Thursday morning.