Magistrate declines NPA’s request to postpone Bathabile Dlamini’s perjury trial to next year
The perjury trial against former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini will go ahead despite the National Prosecuting Authority asking for it to be postponed to February.
Johannesburg magistrate Betty Khumalo made the ruling on Thursday after the state said it would need at least four weeks to make travel and accommodation arrangements for a witness based in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are available to start with the trial. The issue is that someone has got to pay for the arrangements, that is the only hurdle we have,” said prosecutor Jacob Serope.
The request comes after the NPA on Wednesday said it could not proceed with trial as it had not consulted with a witness, identified as Zodwa Mvulane. Khumalo granted the request only for the state to decide that it would no longer use the witness.
“Indeed consultation has taken place. Subsequent to that, the state is of the view that we will not be calling her any more,” he said.
In declining the state’s request, Khumalo said she considered that Dlamini was brought into court by way of summons, all parties had been agreement and indicated they would be ready to proceed with the case this month and that if they were not, the court could place other matters on the roll.
“I am of the view that it would be in the interest of justice and fair that at this point we utilise all the dates that have been put aside, which means that yesterday we could not do much. Even today we are still dilly-dallying, but nevertheless the matter has been on the roll. The day for tomorrow has to be utilised.
“It is therefore this court’s ruling that this matter be rolled over to tomorrow. The state must secure this outstanding witness it intends to call tomorrow to be here,” ruled Khumalo.
Dlamini’s lawyer told the court the state's ill-preparedness was a waste of everybody’s time.
He argued that the reasons advanced by the state for the postponement were not adequate.
“They could have done the consultations in September, we are in November now. It is an insult to this court. Waste of your time and our time.
“In essence, there is no good reason for you to grant a postponement,” he argued.
Before the ruling, the state had maintained it would be in the interest of justice to grant its request.
“We would request an adjournment until sometime next year due to other commitments that we already have. And we do not wish to set dates which we will not able to honour in the continuation of this matter as this will further delay progress in this matter, as a result,” Serope said.
Dlamini, who also serves as president of the ANC Women's League, allegedly gave false evidence under oath at an inquiry instituted by the Constitutional Court in 2018 into the payment fiasco at the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa), a claim she denied while entering a plea.
The matter relates to repeated extensions of an unlawful tender awarded to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to distribute the department's social grants in 2017. The court was forced to extend the contract with CPC even though it was found to be illegal.
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