'I worked diligently over social grants' - Bathabile Dlamini

Minister in The Presidency responsible for Women Bathabile Dlamini.
Minister in The Presidency responsible for Women Bathabile Dlamini.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini says she acted "diligently" and couldn't be blamed for the social grant payment crisis.

Dlamini, largely blamed by some for the scandal that put at risk the payment of grants, was arguing in court papers filed in the Constitutional Court on Monday.

The court ordered Dlamini and acting South Africa Social Security Agency (Sassa) CEO Pearl Bhengu, on March 23, to motivate why they shouldn't be held personally liable for costs in the proceedings.

This was after proceedings relating to a further suspension of the declaration of the invalidity of the contract between Sassa and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).

The court had dealt with the same matter in March 2017 as it was clear that Sassa was not ready to take over the payment of social grants to over 10-million beneficiaries. The contract with CPS had been declared invalid by the court in 2014.

The court earlier this year asked retired judge Bernard Ngoepe to investigate in an inquiry if Dlamini should be held personally liable for the 2017 matter. The court is yet to rule on this matter as Ngoepe is still expected to submit his findings.

Dlamini argued this week that she had acted in good faith and worked diligently as minister of social development.

"I have acted at all relevant times in good faith in relation to the grant beneficiaries and, therefore, I submit I should not, in law, be held personally liable for the costs in these proceedings," said the court papers.

"I respectfully submit that my conduct in connection with the application for the extension was not mala fide, negligent or unreasonable. I did not violate any grant beneficiary's constitutional rights."

Dlamini, however, also argued that should the court not accept her bona fides, an argument would be explored on the remedy not being in a parliamentary or electoral process.

"In other words, the legal question, I am advised, is whether it is appropriate for this court to divine remedies sought or expressly provided for in the constitution because the constitution talks of accountability not personally liability of political office bearers."

Bhengu argued that when she was employed as acting CEO in July 2017, negotiations were already under way between Sassa and the South African Post Office (Sapo).

"When I took over as CEO and having made assessments and investigations, I was satisfied that Sapo will be able to deliver the social grant payments. At no stage did I believe Sapo would not be able to take over."

Bhengu said it was only when Sapo indicated "some constraints" that it wouldn't be able to carry out cash payments that they began advertising the tender for this.

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