Bathabile Dlamini’s perjury case set down for trial as she claims the state is 'out to get her'
Former minister threatens to take her fight to high court
The perjury case against former social development minister and ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini has been set down to proceed for plea and trial on November 24, magistrate Betty Khumalo ruled on Friday.
Dlamini took the stand for the second time in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court after the director of public prosecutions took a decision to prosecute her for allegedly giving false evidence under oath in 2018.
Presenting Dlamini’s case, advocate Tshepiso Mphahlane raised objections, including concern over the “unlawful” involvement of the Hawks in the matter.
“My client is concerned about the involvement of the Hawks in this matter because, in our view, it is unlawful conduct on their part as it is not in accordance with the Police Service Act which established the Hawks. The mandate of the Hawks is very clear: to investigate, prevent and combat national priority offences, and these include serious commercial crimes, corruption and other serious crimes,” he said.
“The question we are raising is: did they get involved because my client is a former minister and a politician?”
The matter relates to Dlamini’s alleged role in dealing with the Social Security Agency of SA (Sassa) fiasco in 2017.
At the time of the crisis, judge Bernard Ngoepe found Dlamini’s conduct had been “reckless and grossly negligent” and ordered her to pay a portion of the costs of litigation.
Mphahlane said there was not much weight to the charge against Dlamini, arguing the case was from a cost order judgment and saying Dlamini had not committed a serious crime.
He also took issue with the matter being moved to the regional court.
“Ordinarily, perjury is dealt with in lower courts, not regional, because it is not a national priority offence and that is where our objection is,” argued Mphahlane.
Ms Dlamini has now got this apprehension that the state is out to get her because she is who she is.Advocate Tshepiso Mphahlane
To back his claims against the Hawks’ involvement, Mphahlane cited their involvement in the [former minister] Malusi Gigaba matter which was condemned by the high court, and threatened to take Dlamini’s fight to the same court.
“We are saying should the situation persist, we will consider approaching the high court for appropriate relief because it suggests to the public that Miss Dlamini faces a serious crime, but she does not.”
“Ms Dlamini has now got this apprehension that the state is out to get her because she is who she is.”
Responding to allegations levelled against the state, advocate Jacob Serepo said there had been no ulterior motive in prosecuting Dlamini, nor anything untoward with the matter being heard in the regional court.
“We submit there is no ulterior motive, we just wanted this matter to be heard in court and as the state we deemed it necessary for this matter to be heard in this forum. If there is ulterior motive and irregularities as alleged, they must be shown.”
Magistrate Khumalo shared similar sentiments. “It is my view that the objection has no merits at this point”. She asked Mphahlane if they sought a postponement of the case in an event Dlamini sought to consult and approach the high court before the matter proceeds.
Mphahlane, however, said they did not insist on a postponement. “We do not insist, my instruction was to put it on record.”
After consultation with defence and the state, Khumalo postponed the matter to November 24-26 for plea and trial.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwana welcomed the court’s decision.
“We welcome the decision by the court that found that the defence’s objections had no merit. We had argued as the state that as the NPA, we reserve the right to choose where the matter should be enrolled,” she said.
Mjonondwana defended the “unlawful” involvement of the Hawks, saying the state could not dictate who should be appointed to investigate criminal matters, adding that the mandate of the Hawks went beyond serious crimes.
“We have said as the state that the list of cases that are investigated by the Hawks is non-exhaustive. In their mandate, you will find the list of cases that they can investigate and at the end, it also says and any other case, so this case is of national importance, the accused person is a high-profile person.
“We as the NPA cannot dictate to the Hawks, the police, who they must appoint as investigators in any criminal matter.”