Court rules amaBhungane can publish Maharaj testimony from secret inquiry

2016-05-12 19:30
Mac Maharaj (Netwerk24)

Mac Maharaj (Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - The High Court in Pretoria has struck down the National Prosecuting Authority's refusal to allow the amaBhungane investigative journalism centre to publish the record of testimony given by former presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj in a secret inquiry.

The court on Thursday dismissed the strike-down application and granted permission for section 28 of the records to be published.

"The section 28 inquiry's scripts can, by no stretch of imagination, be regarded as confidential under these circumstances where it has been in the public domain for at least 10 years," the court ruled.

"I agree that it will serve no purpose to remit the matter to the NDPP [National Director of Public Prosecutions], but it will be just and equitable for this court to substitute the decision of the NDPP."

In April this year, amaBhungane, which was the Mail & Guardian's centre of investigative journalism, relaunched as an independent centre for investigative journalism, distributing its stories more widely.

Maharaj and his wife Zarina testified in an inquiry in 2003 under section 28 of the National Prosecuting Authority Act. This meant that they were stripped of their right to remain silent, provided that proceedings were not made public or used for prosecution.

The former spin doctor had reportedly given his biographer access to his transcripts and extracts had been published in City Press.

In 2012, acting Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba decided that the public would not be allowed to know what Maharaj had said during the inquiry, Media24 Investigations reported at the time.

This was after Media24 Investigations and City Press asked for permission to publish the transcripts.

The investigation was reportedly into allegations of corruption involving transport tenders issued while Maharaj was minister, and payments from now convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik and French company Thales into accounts connected to the Maharaj couple. A Shaik-linked company and Thales won the tenders.

Media24 Investigations and City Press applied to the NDPP to publish details of the transcripts. The Mail & Guardian made a similar application.

Read more on:    mac maharaj  |  pretoria  |  media

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