SASSA debacle: Dlamini was an 'evasive and obstructive witness' - Geoff Budlender

Advocate for Black Sash says minister's approach to inquiry was not fitting of someone in her position

SASSA debacle: Dlamini was an evasive and obstructive witness, inquiry hears

19 March 2018

Johannesburg - Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini was an evasive and obstructive witness during an inquiry into whether she should be held personally liable for the costs incurred during the SASSA payments crisis, the inquiry heard on Monday.

During his closing argument at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand, Geoff Budlender - for Black Sash - argued that Dlamini's approach to the inquiry was not befitting of an accountable minister.

Dlamini had faced four days of cross-examination in January where she was reprimanded by the chair of the inquiry, retired judge Bernard Ngoepe, for avoiding questions.

The Constitutional Court ordered last year that an inquiry be held to investigate whether she should be held personally liable for the costs.

Budlender added that Dlamini had lied in her affidavit that she had not played a dominant role in the workstreams around grants.

Concurring with Budlender, Freedom Under Law's (FUL) advocate Andreas Coutsoudis argued that Dlamini had misled the Constitutional Court when she said that she took no interest in the meetings of the workstreams.

"The minister took the view that it would be more dangerous to tell ConCourt of these meetings," Coutsoudis said.

"The credibility of the minister is far from ideal."

'Drunk with power'

Former South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) CEO Thokozani Magwaza testified in January that he thought Dlamini was "drunk with power".

Magwaza described how Dlamini barged into an executive committee meeting without warning and reprimanded him in front of his subordinates.

He added that Dlamini would also change advisors on a whim.

"[The] problem was, [the] minister was running SASSA like her own shop," he said.

The inquiry was established to investigate whether Dlamini had sought the appointment of individuals to lead the various "workstreams", who would report directly to her.

Further, the Constitutional Court ordered the inquiry to investigate the details of the appointments, such as when people were appointed, who they reported to, and the dates and contents of the reports on the workstreams to the minister.

Lastly, the inquiry also looked into why the minister did not disclose this information to the court.