Just before Thursday, when former minister of labour Mildred Oliphant took to nine the tally of high- ranking ANC parliamentarians who resigned their seats in the National Assembly, the topical casualty had been Bathabile Dlamini, president of the Women’s League who had been the immediate past minister in the presidency for women, but best remembered for her tenure as minister of social development.
Those who had expected her resignation letter “with immediate effect” to be an exercise in spilling the beans are still reeling with shock at the damp squib it turns out to be, coming from a politician who had warned at the height of her career that “all of us in the NEC have our smaller (nyana) skeletons and we don’t want to take out all the skeletons because hell will break loose”.
The head of the ANCWL says the 54th congress of the party has taught “us many lessons”, the first of which is that “the African National Congress is not ready to be led by women”.
What they learnt from this lesson is not articulated as, almost immediately, the letter changes tack and fleetingly goes into decrying factions inside the ANC before settling on CPS, the Cash Paymaster Services saga that will remain an albatross around her neck.
The Constitutional Court ordered that Social Development, on behalf of the government, take over the contract from CPS by March 31, 2017. Instead, in her eternal wisdom, the then-minister oversaw the extension of the self-same tender on March 6 by a further two years.
Dlamini writes: “The truth of the matter is that we needed specialists given the critical nature of Sassa.”
The South Africa Social Security Agency dispenses monthly grants to identified beneficiaries and the manner of CPS taking over these payments is the nub of what makes Dlamini’s term as social development minister a disaster.
In the letter, the former minister says: “What is also important to me here, is that I never arrived with CPS to (sic) the department.”
This comes after she had said departmental top brass like Vusi Madonsela, Zane Dangor and Virginia Peterson had recommended that the CPS tender not be cancelled.
Hardly 24 hours later, Dangor had disputed the claims that he was against the cancellation of the CPS contract.
Insofar as CPS is concerned, Dlamini continues to live in cloud cuckoo land. She writes: “I have gone through the Constitutional Court judgment on CPS and not once was I proven to be corrupt and this does not excite me.”
She repeats the “judgment did not suggest that I was corrupt”.
That Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng was critical of her incompetence (and Sassa) seems to have escaped Dlamini’s attention as she sat down to write her resignation letter.
She holds no grudge for being reshuffled and not being appointed, she writes.
But the letter drips with sour grapes.
Perhaps it is not surprising that Social Development was such a shambles because there’s a lot of rot Dlamini did not raise alarm bells about.
She says at the height of the Sassa debacle, ex-minister Jeff Radebe, one of those who resigned as an MP, “started taking over the role of the minister of social development and no one raised the matter with him and I kept quiet”.
Then she says, without naming names: “Those that made profit through CPS... their wives are known.”
The DA is taking her to task to out the culprits.
Section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act states that anyone who suspects or knows of another person who have committed corruption should report the offence to the police. Failure to do so is an offence, the DA said.
The opposition party said it would give Dlamini “48 hours to report this alleged corruption to the police” and if she failed, “we will proceed with laying criminal charges against her”.
“The DA has already laid perjury charges against her following the damning judgment in which the Constitutional Court requested that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) consider whether Dlamini should be prosecuted for lying under oath during her testimony at the Judge Bernard Ngoepe inquiry into the social grants crisis,” said the leader of the opposition.
She plays the victim card: “I have reflected a lot on my past my family that lost its property and had to move from place to place in order to ensure that they were safe. I have to apologise to my mother who is now 84 years old, my father, who is 86 years old, my siblings as well as my extended family.”
She says nothing about the love for family that drained Sassa of R2 million to pay for security services for her children in 2014/15, the period of their alleged distress.
Her penchant for overseas travel and hotel stays also came at great cost to the department.
This is rich, coming from someone who reportedly argued an average family could live comfortably on less than R800 a month.
“I am convinced that our country’s democracy is far from developing or improving because there are those amongst us that have the support of the media, that have mastered the art of demonising some of us and unfortunately they are seen as very committed, clean and innocent when they have shares in some of those institutions.”
She does not say she has used the media herself.
In December 2017, Dlamini and her spokesperson Lumka Oliphant saw the department pay R500 000 to feature in an interview on Real Talk with Anele.
The SABC confirmed receipt of the money at the time.
Political analyst Dumisani Hlophe said: “I don’t know what she will be remembered for: the ANCWL potency declined under her leadership; her rise to power was more accredited to her associates to the then so-called Premier League. Her performance as minister was marred by adverse judicial outcomes.”
Perhaps for more a positive account of her legacy, one might want to go to earlier days in her political career, Hlophe suggests.