Pressure on president to axe Bathabile Dlamini
On Thursday Dlamini, who is now Minister of Women in the Presidency, went to ground, with her office saying she would not be commenting on the scathing judgment or doing interviews.
Her spokesperson, Mandla Tshabalala, said they were still studying the judgment and would issue a statement afterwards.
DA MP Bridget Masango and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa called on Ramaphosa to get rid of Dlamini.
”President Ramaphosa must fire her. We called on former president Jacob Zuma to fire her as early as last year,” said Masango.
She said Dlamini was not fit to lead any government department.
Holomisa told Independent Media that the judgment would be a test for Ramaphosa and his seriousness about cleaning up among his ranks.
“She should be removed from cabinet. When you’re a minister or public representative, we don’t need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you’re guilty - the balance of probabilities is enough,” he said.
Dlamini faces criminal charges for allegedly lying under oath, both at the Constitutional Court and the inquiry headed by retired judge president Bernard Ngoepe.
Ngoepe’s inquiry looked into whether Dlamini should be held personally liable for legal costs.
In a unanimous judgment written by Justice Johan Froneman, the court said Ngoepe’s findings “suggest very strongly” that Dlamini lied under oath before both the Constitutional Court and the inquiry.
The Constitutional Court’s registrar must forward a copy of Ngoepe’s report to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to decide if Dlamini should be prosecuted for perjury.
“The report by Ngoepe revealed that the minister misled the court to protect herself from the consequences of her behaviour,” said Justice Froneman.
“The office that she occupied demands a greater commitment to ethical behaviour and requires a high commitment to public service.”
A person found guilty of perjury in the country’s courts could be jailed for between a year and 10 years.
Constitutional law expert Professor Shadrack Gutto applauded the court for leaving it to the NPA to decide whether there were grounds to prosecute Dlamini. “The NPA must decide, no one else,” said Gutto.
“I think this is a landmark decision, so they ought to look at it carefully and do the right thing. That could protect the public from abuse of power.
“The ruling by the court does really point out that you cannot always avoid doing your Constitutional responsibility,” Gutto added.
“It also sends the message to the executive and those in parliament that they are not at freedom to just siphon off public resources in cases that they should have known they are going to lose.”
Nicole Fritz, chief executive officer of Freedom Under Law (FUL), said Froneman’s perjury recommendations were a “further indictment” of Dlamini’s conduct.
“It’s also an indication of how important it is that the South African public have confidence in our NPA that it will be able to make decisions of this magnitude without fear or favour,” said Fritz.
Lobby group Black Sash’s Gauteng manager Thandiwe Zulu said the ruling should send a message to officials abusing power that they could be held personally liable for litigation costs.
Black Sash with FUL as the intervening party brought the matter before the apex court last year after it became clear that the payment of social grants to 17 million beneficiaries could be at risk and asked that the SA Social Security Agency’s unlawful contract with Cash Paymaster Service be extended.
“The judgment will actually serve as a deterrent in every department where power is being misused,” Zulu said.
“We’re happy that we spearheaded this process not just for grant beneficiaries, but for every other citizen in the country.”
Fritz concurred: “We certainly think that ministers who have not executed their duties in compliance with the Constitution should be worried because this does allow for further such rulings.
“The courts will be able to rely on this type of judgment to support further such rulings,” said Fritz.
Dlamini was also ordered to pay 20% of the legal costs incurred by both organisations from her own pockets.
Black Sash national director Lynette Maart said they had asked their lawyers to quantify their legal costs but have not yet advised them of the figure.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said Dlamini has always been a liability and suggested that Ramaphosa also knew that.
He said Ramaphosa has no choice but to get rid of her because the ANC cannot go to next year’s elections with Dlamini and other compromised ministers.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said he could not respond on Thursday while Ramaphosa’s spokesperson did not return messages.
The NPA said it could not comment on the court’s referral until it has received the report and judgment from the registrar.