ConCourt orders Dlamini to pay up

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Bathabile Dlamini, who is now minister of women in the Presidency. (Photo source: GCIS)
Bathabile Dlamini, who is now minister of women in the Presidency. (Photo source: GCIS)

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruled that former social development minister, Bathabile Dlamini, must be personally liable for 20% of the costs of litigation resulting from last year's social grants crisis.

Delivering the ConCourt ruling this morning, justice Johan Froneman said the unanimous judgement results from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) inquiry led by retired judge Bernard Ngoepe.

Last year, Ngoepe was appointed to head up the inquiry to determine Dlamini's liability in the payments crisis of SASSA grants.

Froneman added that SASSA and the Department of Social Development must pay 80% of the costs.

There must be an investigation into whether minister Dlamini must be charged with perjury, stated the ConCourt justice.

"There is no merit to the argument that public officials cannot be held liable for costs of litigation when they have acted in bad faith or been grossly negligent.

"It is proper that minister Dlamini bear some costs for her conduct misleading the court for fear of being held personally liable.

"It is a novel matter to hold a minister personally liable for the costs of litigation. It is proper that minister Dlamini bear 20% of the costs of this application."

As the social grants crisis unfolded last year, Dlamini continued to plead innocence.

One of the conditions of the court's March 2017 decision to extend the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was that Dlamini should explain why she should not personally pay the legal costs of the social grants case.

In extending the contract, the ConCourt sought to not only avert a national payments crisis but also allow SASSA enough time to usher in a new services provider.

CPS, a subsidiary of Net1 UEPS Technologies, has been distributing SASSA grants to 10.8 million beneficiaries on behalf of government after it was awarded the contract in 2012. As the distributor of South African social grants, CPS faced a slew of allegations that it authorises deductions on beneficiaries' accounts. The paymaster has refuted these claims.

This year, there were fears once again that the most vulnerable South Africans would not receive their grants on 1 April. However, the ConCourt once again granted the extension of the CPS contract with SASSA for another six months. The contract will expire on 30 September.

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