Dlamini perjury case ‘dilly-dallies’ as state fails to bring witnesses

The perjury case against ANC Women’s League president and former minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini was postponed to Friday 26 November after the state failed to bring its witnesses to testify. 

Magistrate Betty Khumalo agreed to allow the state to have its case postponed to the following day. 

“Yesterday (Wednesday 24 November) we couldn’t do much, even today we are still being dilly dally, but nevertheless, the matter has been on roll and the day for tomorrow has to be utilised … the state must ensure that he secures this outstanding witness that he intends to call tomorrow,” ruled Khumalo. 

On Thursday, the Johannesburg Central magistrate’s court heard how the state was unable to make travel and accommodation arrangements for its witnesses.

It is expected that two witnesses will testify in the state’s case where it is alleged that  Dlamini lied under oath in 2018

On Wednesday, Dlamini pleaded not guilty to the charge of perjury. 

However, the case stalled for two days as the state indicated its two witnesses cannot yet testify. 

It told the court: “The state was not able to make travel and accommodation arrangements … such arrangements cannot be done overnight as there is protocol that needs to be followed and approvals that need to be done … The only predicament that we have is the issue of such arrangements.”

The state requested an adjournment “until sometime next year due to other commitments that we already have”.

Dlamini’s defence, advocate Tshepiso Mphahlane, objected to a postponement, arguing the court did not have good enough reason to grant a postponement and that the state was wasting both his and the court’s time. 

He indicated that the state had since 1 October to consult with its witnesses, arguing it is “abuse of power of the state” and “an insult to the system”.

The state dismissed claims it was abusing its power. 

Rather, the state explained, the witnesses could not yet testify due to difficulties in communicating with them. 

The state explained how one witness from KwaZulu-Natal ignored two messages the state sent and did not answer phone calls, and that “there wasn’t much the state could do”. Regarding the second witness, the state had trouble connecting telephonically with him. 

It is alleged that Dlamini perjured herself after she lied under oath while giving testimony during an inquiry instituted by the Constitutional Court in 2018 to investigate the social grant payments flop involving the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). 

Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law submitted evidence that the former minister had failed in her duty to ensure that Sassa was equipped to take over the payment of social grants, after the contract with Cash Paymaster Services was declared invalid.

In 2018, the court ruled that Dlamini had behaved recklessly and negligently during the grants crisis and held her personally liable for 20% of the legal costs of the action brought by the Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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