Bathabile Dlamini, a former South African social development minister and head of the ruling party’s powerful womens’ league, will be prosecuted for perjury in a move by prosecutors that will stoke political tension.
The charges relate to her testimony at a Constitutional Court inquiry in 2018 into a crisis over welfare-grant payments where a judge ruled that she’d lied under oath, the Centre for Applied legal Studies, which took part in the case, said in a statement on Tuesday. The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Gauteng province decided to prosecute her and a summons was issued for her to appear in the Johannesburg Regional Court on September 21, it said.
Dlamini joins former President Jacob Zuma and suspended African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule as foes of President Cyril Ramaphosa who are embroiled in legal cases. Her trial could heighten divisions between Ramaphosa- and Zuma-aligned party factions ahead of its internal elections next year.
“There is no doubt they are going to say these are political machinations going into the elective conference,” said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst. “The stakes are high, people are going to fight to the death because the alternative is going to jail.”
Ramaphosa, who took over as president when Zuma was compelled to resign in early 2018, has pledged to crack down on corruption. The government estimates that more than R500 billion ($33 billion) was stolen from state coffers during Zuma’s almost nine years in power.
Zuma, who denies wrongdoing, has been blamed for hollowing out South African institutions including the National Prosecuting Authority, resulting in few legal cases being brought against politically connected figures. Ramaphosa has made senior appointments in the NPA and tasked them with rebuilding the institution.
Dlamini in 2017 took responsibility for the welfare department’s failure to find a new service provider to handle South Africa’s about R150 billion in annual welfare payments, after the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that a contract with Net 1 UEPS Technologies Inc. to handle the payouts was invalid. In 2018, she was ordered to personally pay part of the legal costs of the case.
Pule Mabe, the ANC’s spokesman, didn’t answer his mobile phone or respond to a text message seeking comment on her case.