Joy for Bathabile Dlamini's supporters as she avoids jail time for perjury
Tears of relief flowed from some of the supporters of ANC Women's League (ANCWL) president Bathabile Dlamini as she managed to evade a custodial sentence in her perjury conviction before the Johannesburg magistrate's court.
Magistrate Betty Khumalo slapped Dlamini with four years in prison or a R200,000 fine, with half of the sentence suspended for five years.
This meant Dlamini would have to pay R100,000 to evade a two-year jail term.
Some of her supporters in ANC regalia wept and hugged each other in the court gallery after Khumalo imposed the sentence.
Dlamini was convicted of perjury last month for lying under oath during an inquiry instituted by the Constitutional Court to look into her role as the then social development minister in the 2017 social grants distribution crisis which plagued the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).
While there had been evidence before court, including her own statement, Dlamini denied that workstreams to ensure internal capacity for grants distribution reported to her.
Khumalo said Dlamini's 2006 fraud conviction, where she paid a R120,000 fine, was an aggravating circumstance as it had never been expunged.
“It goes without saying that the accused’s previous conviction and the current offence both have an element of dishonesty or misrepresentation. It cannot therefore be completely disregarded. But the court appreciates that 15 years has lapsed since then and that she made it to be a minister despite that previous conviction,” she said.
Khumalo said society, however, frowned upon Dlamini’s conduct as a high-ranking former government official from “whom greater level of responsibility and accountability was expected” as it affected millions of social grant beneficiaries who looked up to her for their grants.
“When the Constitutional Court was at pains to seek clarity from her, instead of being upfront, she withheld information for fear of exposure, which led to taxpayers’ money being utilised for the inquiry and the department’s taxpayers’ money being used to get out of the quagmire she put it through,” Khumalo said.
She dismissed arguments by Dlamini’s defence that she never benefited from lying in court, adding that it was aggravating that she had violated the oath she had taken when she was appointed minister of defending the constitution.
“She has not shown remorse for her conduct having caused serious impediments to the administration of justice and wasting not only taxpayers’ money but the time which it took to unravel all these,” Khumalo said.
Among those who attended Dlamini's sentencing was suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and former MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus.
Addressing Dlamini’s supporters who had camped outside court since the morning, Mahumapelo said her perjury saga had been a long and painful journey.
“Today was the time for the sun to set on her. It was supposed to be a day of sadness. Some wanted her to go to prison,” Mahumapelo said.
He hailed Khumalo for not locking Dlamini up behind bars.
“After looking at everything, she made a decision that she must not go to the cells...so today she is going home. She will sleep at home with her children,” he said.
Mahumapelo said Dlamini had been processed, including the taking of her fingerprints and paid a R20,000 down payment as ordered by the court, with R80,000 due by April 29.
Dlamini is currently awaiting her fate to be decided by the ANC’s top six, which has been tasked with dealing with the application of the party’s step-aside rule for members charged or convicted of corruption and other serious criminal offences.