The Star Late Edition
Bathabile Dlamini pays up
IT HAS taken three years, but former minister of social development, Bathabile Dlamini, has eventually paid the costs awarded against her personally by the Constitutional Court in 2018 for her role in the social grants crisis.
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) which represented Black Sash Trust and others during the legal battle, confirmed that the former minister had paid R650 000 in total – her 20% portion of the legal costs which the Concourt at the time said she was personally liable for.
She was ordered to pay a portion of the costs in an effort to protect the social grants system.
In September 2018, the apex court handed down a historic ruling, holding a sitting minister personally responsible for failure in carrying out her duties.
The judgment related to urgent litigation brought by the Black Sash Trust, CALS, and joined by Freedom Under Law, which sought to protect the social grants system.
The court, in a scathing judgment, found that she personally be held liable for her role in the crisis which led to the litigation.
The case involved a Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) tender to pay out social grants that expired but was renewed repeatedly, and Dlamini’s handling of the matter. The judgment found that her conduct had been “reckless and grossly negligent”.
The court went a step further by ordering Dlamini to pay a portion of the legal costs of the Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law.
Lee-Anne Bruce, of CALS, said this sent an important message that public officials must be held to account for their actions, and was widely applauded given how the then minister had put millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at risk.
“Yet, until recently, Ms Dlamini had made every effort to avoid paying the costs she owed of around R650 000 total. She did not only ignore letters of demand, but she even went as far as to change attorneys in the process.
“Nevertheless, our organisations have persisted in holding her accountable and ensuring the court’s order is enforced. We even approached the Sheriff of the court for assistance.”
Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS, said: “We have been very pleased to see our democracy at work in this case to hold even those occupying some of our highest offices accountable in their personal capacity.”
Freedom Under Law chief executive Nicole Fritz said it was essential that government leaders entrusted with such important positions of care and responsibility for the most vulnerable in society be required to face real reckoning when they failed to discharge their responsibilities.
Fritz said litigation efforts were ongoing to ensure that the private actors involved, specifically CPS, fully complied with the Concourt’s orders in the social grants matter.