Johannesburg - The conviction of ANC Women’s League president and former Social Development minister Bathabile Dlamini for perjury has been largely welcomed, with the DA saying it should be a wake-up call to all politicians.
The Black Sash Trust and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) described Magistrate Betty Khumalo’s verdict as demonstrating that public officials have a duty to act ethically and must be held to account when they don’t.
On Wednesday, the Johannesburg Regional Court found Dlamini guilty of lying under oath in affidavits filed at the Constitutional Court, and at an inquiry that the country’s highest court ordered in the social grants debacle in 2017, chaired by retired Gauteng High Court Judge President Bernard Ngoepe.
The Black Sash Trust was represented by CALS in the long-running saga that could culminate in the former Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women being jailed or facing a hefty fine, as demanded by the National Prosecuting Authority in court.
CALS attorney Ariella Scher said even those occupying the country’s highest offices must be held to account for their actions.
”Perjury is not a victimless crime, especially for sitting cabinet ministers. In this case, Dlamini’s dishonesty contributed to an ongoing crisis in the social grants system that threatened millions of beneficiaries who rely on it every month,” said Scher.
Video: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
According to the Black Sash Trust’s executive director Rachel Bukasa, cases such as this will go a long way in ensuring that people start to believe that everyone is equal before the law.
DA MP Bridget Masango said Khumalo’s judgment should act as a wake-up call to politicians who forget that they are in their position of power at the behest of ordinary South Africans.
“No one is above the law. Millions of vulnerable citizens are reliant on their SA Social Security Agency grants, and the responsibility of caring for those individuals should never be taken lightly,” she said.
COPE said sending Dlamini to jail would send a very strong message that nobody is above the law and that all will be treated equally by the courts, irrespective of one’s standing in society.
“We are aware that many in the ANC are of the belief that they are untouchable and above the law. Clearly, things are changing for the better.
“We reject a fine for this serious offence of perjury. Dlamini must go to jail,” the party’s spokesperson Dennis Bloem said.
ANC Women’s League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba said the organisation noted the ruling on the perjury case against its president.
“We are studying the ruling and we are in no position to communicate anything with regard to the matter until further notice,” said Matuba.
Dlamini is scheduled to return to court on April 1 for sentencing.