ConCourt ruling on Dlamini, Sassa debacle a victory - Black Sash, FUL

Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)
Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press, file)

Non-governmental organisations Black Sash and Freedom Under Law say that Thursday's Constitutional Court's ruling on the Sassa matter is a victory.

The South African Social Security Agency's case, which was brought by Black Sash and FUL, has been ongoing for several years.

On Thursday afternoon, in a unanimous decision, the highest court in the land ruled that former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini is personally liable for 20% of the costs of Black Sash Trust and FUL's application, including the costs of two counsel.

READ: ConCourt rules that Bathabile Dlamini is liable for 20% of costs in Sassa debacle

In handing down the judgment, Justice Johan Froneman said the remaining 80% should be paid by the position of the Minister of Social Development, Sassa and its CEO.

"I must say... what has been handed down is a victory from an accountability point of view. I think this court judgment sets a precedent for any and every other department where power is being misused," Black Sash regional manager Thandiwe Zulu said.

Zulu said it would also serve as a deterrent, where "upholding the principles of our Constitution are not taken into consideration in the manner that they should be".

The court also found that the National Prosecuting Authority should determine whether Dlamini should be prosecuted for perjury.

READ: How Bathabile Dlamini dodged a ConCourt bullet… for now

An inquiry was instituted last year to investigate whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for the costs. Judge Bernard Ngoepe, who chaired the inquiry, criticised the minister in a report he had compiled.

The inquiry suggested that some of Dlamini's evidence under oath in the affidavits, both before the court and orally, was false.

'Reckless and grossly negligent conduct'

It also probed whether Dlamini had sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various multi-million rand work streams, which would report directly to her.

The inquiry also looked into why the minister had not disclosed this information to the court that dealt with the matter.

READ Sassa debacle: Dlamini hits back, saying ConCourt has no authority to impose cost order

Ngoepe found that the reason Dlamini had failed to report on the work stream was because she feared being held responsible in her personal capacity for the costs in the Sassa debacle.

Froneman found that Dlamini's role in creating the parallel work streams, and the subsequent withholding of that information from the court, demonstrated bad faith behaviour and, "at best, reckless and grossly negligent conduct, both of which warrant a personal costs order against her".

"The court had to weigh up the minister's personal role arising from the parallel process she set in motion, and her shielding this truth from the court, against the fact that in normal situations state officials do not bear responsibility for the good faith performance of their official function."

Freedom Under Law's Nicole Fritz said it was "sad that we had public officials enjoy this power and abused their powers in the way that they have".

NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaka said they would only comment once they had received a copy of the inquiry report from the Constitutional Court's registrar.  

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