Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini. File Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Bathabile Dlamini pays R650 000 for her role in social grants crisis

By Zelda Venter Time of article published May 13, 2021

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Pretoria - Former minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini has paid the costs awarded against her personally following a ruling made in this regard by the Constitutional Court in 2018 for her role in the social grants crisis.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals) which represented the Black Sash Trust and others during the legal battle, confirmed that the former minister had paid R650 000 in total - her 20% portion of the legal costs which the Constitutional Court at the time said she was personally liable for.

She was ordered to pay a portion of the costs of litigation brought by civil society organisations in an effort to protect the social grants system.

In September 2018, the Constitutional Court handed down a historic ruling, for the first time holding a sitting cabinet minister personally responsible for their failures in carrying out their duties.

The judgment related to urgent litigation brought by the Black Sash Trust (represented by Cals) and joined by Freedom Under Law, which sought to protect the social grants system.

The court found the then minister personally liable for her role in the crisis which led to the litigation.

The judgment found that her conduct had been “reckless and grossly negligent”. The court then went one step further by ordering her to pay a portion of the legal costs of the Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law from her own pocket.

Lee-Anne Bruce of Cals said this sent an important message that public officials must be held to account for their actions and was widely applauded given how the then minister had put millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.

“Yet, until recently, Dlamini had made every effort to avoid paying the costs she owed of around R650 000. She did not only ignore letters of demand, but she even went as far as to change attorneys in the process.”

“Nevertheless, our organisations have persisted in holding her accountable and ensuring the court’s order is enforced. We even approached the Sheriff of the court for assistance,” Bruce said.

Ariella Scher, attorney at Cals, meanwhile said: “We have been very pleased to see our democracy at work in this case to hold even those occupying some of our highest offices accountable in their personal capacity.”

She expressed the hope that this is an approach that can be used in future to combat corruption at all levels of government, from local municipalities to cabinet.

Nicole Fritz, CEO of Freedom Under Law said it is essential that government leaders entrusted with such important positions of care and responsibility for those most vulnerable in our society be required to face real reckoning when they fail to discharge their responsibilities.

Fritz said litigation efforts are meanwhile ongoing to ensure that the private actors involved – specifically Cash Paymaster Services – fully comply with the Constitutional Court’s orders in the social grants matter. The parties vowed that the struggle to advance the right to social security is far from over and that they will continue to hold the government accountable to keep its promises of working towards a universal basic income grant.

“We condemn the manner in which the special Covid-19 relief of distress grants and caregiver grants have been brought to an end despite the ongoing state of disaster and unparalleled time of hardship,” Lynette Maart of the Black Sash trust said.

Pretoria News

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