'Your report can't say Minister Dlamini is a liar' – lawyer tells inquiry chair

2018-03-19 21:06
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press)

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press)

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Johannesburg – Emotions ran high when Minister Bathabile Dlamini's legal representative argued that retired judge Bernard Ngoepe, who is chairing an inquiry into the minister, could not make adverse findings in his ruling on Monday. 

During his hour of closing arguments, Advocate Ishmael Semenya attempted to advance the reasoning that Ngoepe was not assigned by the Constitutional Court to make any ruling against his client.

"It cannot be within the remit of a referee to say in its report that the explanation given was hopelessly inadequate. The report can't say the minister is a liar, that's also a legal conclusion," he said.

READ: Sassa debacle: Dlamini was an evasive and obstructive witness, inquiry hears

All that Ngoepe was required to do now that the inquiry had wrapped up was to present his report to the Constitutional Court, Semenya suggested.

The inquiry was instituted by the court last year to investigate whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs in the South African Social Security Agency debacle. 

The inquiry also seeks to investigate whether Dlamini had sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various "workstreams", which would report directly to her.

Lame duck

Further, the court ordered the inquiry to investigate the details of the appointments, such as when individuals were appointed, who they reported to, and the dates and contents of the reports on the workstreams to the minister.

Lastly, the inquiry also looked into why the minister did not disclose this information to the court.

Semenya argued that the court did not invite Ngoepe as its referee to say why the minister did not disclose information to the Constitutional Court on workstreams and thereby advancing Black Sash and Freedom Under Law's argument.

"Please resist the invitation that has been placed before you of going [back] and making those judicial findings."

READ: Former Sassa CEO a victim of Dlamini's efforts to absolve herself, inquiry hears

This did not sit well with Ngoepe who said that Semenya was suggesting that the court hired him as a lame duck "to just make notes".

Ngoepe, however, conceded that it was not his task as a referee to determine Dlamini's liability in relation to the payment.

"If two people give contesting view, I've got to assist in which version I feel is true... I can't when being asked to inquire, close the inquiry without a resolution," Ngoepe said.

Workstreams

Expanding his reasons, Ngoepe said he would have to answer to the court in his report why Dlamini made omissions in her affidavits. 

Semenya, however, insisted that while his arguments and language was "inelegant", "it is not your function as a referee to say if the minister should be held liable".

"What we are urging you not to do is to then say these reasons she is advancing are hopeless. That we submit with respect is the function of the ConCourt. ConCourt has to make the ruling that she has to pay personally."

Earlier Geoff Budlender – for Black Sash – argued that Dlamini's approach to the inquiry was not befitting of an accountable minister.

Budlender argued that Dlamini had lied in her affidavit that she had not played a dominant role in the workstreams around grants.

Concurring with Budlender, Freedom Under Law's Advocate Andreas Coutsoudis argued that Dlamini had misled the Constitutional Court when she said that she took no interest in the meetings of the workstreams.

"The minister took the view that it would be more dangerous to tell ConCourt of these meetings," Coutsoudis said.

Read more on:    sassa  |  bathabile dlamini

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