Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, who remained in her post in this week’s cabinet reshuffle, on Friday missed a deadline set by the Constitutional Court to explain why she should not be held personally liable for legal costs in the shambles she created in the payment of social grants.
The office of the registrar of the court confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that it closed on Friday afternoon having not yet received the affidavit Dlamini was ordered two weeks ago to provide.
Dlamini’s office subsequently put out a statement that simultaneously claimed she had, in fact, met the deadline, while also saying that her attorneys would on Monday ask the court for condonation for missing the deadline.
Dlamini has missed every deadline during a process in which she was found responsible for a national crisis around the payment of vital social grants to some 17-million beneficiaries. She has previously also falsely claimed to have met one of those deadlines.
The court said Dlamini should explain her personal role in the sequence of events in which the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), which she oversees, failed to meet a promise to insource the payment of social grants by April 1. It reserved a finding on the costs of the ensuing legal drama until Dlamini’s answer.
Meta-data shows that Dlamini’s lawyers attempted to serve her affidavit on other parties in the matter 30 minutes before it was due to be filled with the court.
In that document Dlamini makes a series of highly qualified apologies.
She must, she says, “express my personal contrition and regret for the anxiety it must have caused” South Africans, she says – that there would not be a “legally valid platform” for the payment of grants.
Accused of not showing due deference to the court, Dlamini also expresses regret “to the extent that this may appear to be the case”.
She also says that she fell prey to “errors of judgment”.
In explaining what appeared to be her utter lack of concern for a looming crisis, Dlamini claims that Sassa left her in the dark for nearly four months after itself realising it may be in trouble. She herself then waited nearly five more months before seeking the help of the ConCourt, her sequence of events show.
“With hindsight I ought to have demanded greater accountability from Sassa officials and more frequent communications and updates from them,” Dlamini says.