Government‚ not the courts‚ should hold me accountable‚ says Bathabile Dlamini
Former Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says holding her personally liable for legal costs in cases linked to the social grants debacle would not promote the advancement of constitutional justice.
In a report, retired Judge Bernard Ngoepe stated that the purpose of his inquiry was not to determine whether Dlamini must pay the costs of the application out of her own pocket, and that that remains the preserve of the Court itself.
He said his report was not about whether or not Dlamini acted in bad faith in the grant payment saga‚ whether she deliberately stalled the process of in-sourcing the payments of grants by Sassa or favoured a particular company to do the payments.
“In the result‚ Justice Ngoepe did not make any finding that Minister Dlamini acted in bad faith or in her own interests or maliciously or grossly negligently or improperly or unreasonably.
In the absence of such findings‚ there is no basis in fact or law for mulcting Minister Dlamini with costs in her personal capacity‚” Dlamini argued. Ngoepe did find that Minister Dlamini’s answers to some of the vital questions were “less than satisfactory”.
Dlamini said the Constitution did not confer powers to a court to hold a cabinet member to account in her personal capacity. Therefore it was not within its reach to grant such an order. “On the contrary‚ it is to the National Assembly that Cabinet members are accountable.
This Court cannot constitutionally substitute itself for the National Assembly if the latter should fail to perform its constitutional obligations.” she said.
She added that there is no allegation in the pleadings that her conduct has “violated clearly established statutory or constitutional rights” of social grants recipients or dependants.
Dlamini was accused of failing to ensure that Sassa was equipped to administer social grants after a contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) was due to expire.
The court was forced to extend the contract‚ even though it had been found illegal.