Minister Bathabile Dlamini Picture: Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS

Johannesburg - Former Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was an embarrassingly poor witness who lied in her testimony, the SA Social Development Agency (Sassa) inquiry heard on Monday.

Submitting his closing arguments, Geoff Budlender, for NGO Black Sash, said Dlamini, now Minister for Women, lied about the role of the expensive work streams because she wanted to conceal her responsibility for her failures and, ultimately, the social grants crisis that arose two years ago.

He added that Dlamini knew all along that the April 2017 deadline set by the Constitutional Court would not be met.

"She simply refused to answer questions... was obstructive and lied under oath. It took the work streams two months to know how to do their job, they started in July 2016 and there was never anyone who believed that the deadline would be reached," said Budlender.

"She knew all along that deadline would not be met, she said she only knew in 2017, but that is not true."

Former Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza and the former director-general Zane Dangor's "overwhelming" evidence contradicted Dlamini's testimony, he added.

"The kindest way to describe the minister is that she was an embarrassingly poor witness. She lied about the work streams in an attempt to avoid personal liability to costs, claiming they reported to the Sassa executives and claimed they did their jobs as expected... she lied."

The Constitutional Court-mandated inquiry is investigating whether Dlamini should be held liable for the legal costs incurred in the protracted Sassa debacle. Retired Judge Barnard Ngoepe is heading the inquiry.

Budlender said there were various reasons that could be advanced for Dlamini's failures in the Sassa debacle, and that the inquiry is mandated to make a finding, at least, about whether "this failure was in good or bad faith". 

African News Agency/ANA