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Con Court holds Minister Dlamini personally liable for social grants crisis

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS and Black Sash welcome today's Con Court judgment ordering Minister Dlamini to pay a portion of legal costs resulting from last year's social grants crisis

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies and the Black Sash Trust welcome today’s Constitutional Court judgment. The Court today ordered that Minister Bathabile Dlamini should pay a portion of the costs of the litigation resulting from last year’s social grants crisis. The Court also called on the NPA to consider whether Minister Dlamini lied under oath and should be prosecuted for perjury.

Today, the Constitutional Court handed down an order in a matter brought by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) on behalf of the Black Sash Trust against SASSA, the Minister of Social Development and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS). The litigation sought to protect the social grant system when the contract between SASSA and CPS came to an end in March 2017 and there was no plan in place to continue paying social grants.

In June 2017, the Court ordered then-Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, be joined to the matter in her personal capacity and explain why she should not be held liable for the costs of the litigation resulting from her negligence. The Court further established an inquiry led by Judge Bernard Ngoepe to investigate outstanding issues in the case. Judge Ngoepe’s report on the inquiry describes Minister Dlamini as an ‘evasive’ witness who misled the Court to protect herself from the consequences of her conduct.

In its judgment, the Court ruled that Minister Dlamini – in her personal capacity – pay 20% of the legal costs in this application, while SASSA and the Department of Social Development must cover the remaining 80% of the costs. The Court found that her conduct was, at best, “reckless and grossly negligent” and acknowledges that “[t]his conclusion is a serious and sad one, especially in the context of  the provision of social grants to the most needy in our society. But if it is not to happen again, consequences must follow.”

The Court also ordered that this judgment and Judge Ngoepe’s report be forwarded to the National Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether Minister Dlamini lied under oath and should be prosecuted for perjury. 

“This is a victory for the South African public,” says Lynette Maart, national director of the Black Sash Trust. “We welcome today’s judgment and the impact this will have for grant beneficiaries going forward.”

“The judgment sets a an important precedent for holding public officials accountable for their reckless and negligent actions in executing their duties,” says Wandisa Phama, Acting Deputy Director at CALS. “This is a step towards ensuring that a similar crisis never happens again.”

Read the full judgment here

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From Black Sash