Bathabile Dlamini must get jail

Douglas Gibson says the ANC does not seem to disapprove of dishonesty

Bathabile Dlamini must get jail

16 March 2022

Bathabile Dlamini is the president of the ANC Women’s League. For that post, she is paid R70,000.00 per month. Her after tax pension as a former MP and minister is R40,000.00. This is not bad remuneration for someone who has served in public life for many years. It might be fitting for someone who is highly regarded to be so well paid. Regrettably, except within the ANC, Bathabile Dlamini, a doubly convicted criminal, is not nearly as highly regarded as one would expect.

She was what can only be described as a lousy minister. Known as a strong Zuma supporter, she had a lengthy career in the cabinet and when she was finally dropped, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu came to her rescue and appointed her as chairperson of the Social Housing Regulatory Authority, another well-paid job which she occupied for two or three years until Sisulu was herself dropped. Dlamini is worth $2m (R29M), according to Forbes and several other sources and we are told this was all earned out of politics.

Dlamini, while an ordinary member of Parliament, earning around R 800,000 per annum, defrauded the people of South Africa to the tune of R254,000.00 during the Travelgate scandal. For that she did a plea bargain and was sentenced to a fine of R120,000.00 or 5 years imprisonment and a further 5 years imprisonment suspended conditionally for 5 years.

The ANC does not seem to disapprove of dishonesty. In the 2009 election, she was rewarded by being placed 16th on the ANC national list. She was also appointed deputy minister of Social Development in 2009 and subsequently as the minister, earning R1,901,699.00. Her glittering cabinet career at Social Development continued until she was re-appointed to the cabinet by President Ramaphosa as Minister of Women in the Presidency in 2018.

The lady did not learn from her criminal conviction. No doubt the succession of major offices which she filled persuaded her that criminality is no bar to promotion and acclaim in the leadership of the ANC.   She authored of one of the most quoted statements in politics. When the ANC was criticised, she said everyone in the ANC’s leadership had “smallanyana skeletons” that shouldn’t come out “because all hell will break loose.”

Now she has another criminal conviction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she was convicted of committing perjury for lying under oath in 2017 in affidavits filed in the Constitutional Court and for testifying and giving false evidence at the enquiry before Judge Ngoepe ordered by that Court. When she was convicted, her advocate referred to her income, implying that it was modest, clearly trying to set the scene for a lenient fine. The prosecutor referred to her previous conviction, just as clearly anticipating a prison sentence. On 1 April, Dlamini will appear before the Court for sentencing.

The views of the public of South Africa will not feature but surely the Court will take into account the fact that our people are entitled to expect honesty and probity from the persons who represent us and govern us. When our rulers fall far short of acceptable behaviour they must be appropriately punished. Bathabile Dlamini should never have been appointed by President Zuma and President Ramaphosa to their cabinets. Smallanyana skeletons may be the rule in the leadership of the ANC but the voters are entitled to believe that criminals should not be rewarded with cabinet posts.

Dlamini deserves, and must be given her own set of orange overalls as she serves a term in jail.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand.

Article first appeared in The Star