Protector Busi Mkhwebane clears Bathabile Dlamini

Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has cleared former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini of deliberately misleading parliament over the social grants debacle.

Dlamini said in her 2016 budget vote speech in parliament that SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) would take over paying grants in April 2017. At the last minute, she approached the Constitutional Court to extend Cash Paymaster Services' contract to administer the grants. A year later, Sassa had to approach the court to again extend the contract to September 2018.

DA MP Bridget Masango complained to the public protector in March 2017 that when Dlamini delivered her speech in parliament, it was unlikely that she did not know that Sassa "would not be ready to perform the function of distributing social grants".

Mkhwebane's vindication of Dlamini comes despite a scathing judgment by the ConCourt in September last year that found Dlamini's conduct was reckless and grossly negligent in the grants saga, and that she failed to disclose information before an inquiry into her role in the crisis in 2017.

The highest court in the land found that Dlamini should be personally liable for 20% of the legal costs incurred by the Black Sash Trust and Freedom Under Law application, including costs of two counsel in that case.

The court also asked the NPA to investigate whether Dlamini should be prosecuted for perjury. She resigned as an ANC MP in July after being excluded from Ramaphosa's trimmed cabinet.

Yesterday, Mkhwebane said: "Based on the information and evidence obtained during the investigation, I could not make a finding on the allegation that ... Dlamini deliberately or inadvertently misled the National Assembly and contravened the Executive Ethics Code, when she delivered her budget vote speech on May 4 2016."

On the ConCourt ruling, she said: "That was their finding, which has got nothing to do with [Dlamini] misleading [parliament]."

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