ANC ordered to hand over ‘brown envelope’ report

2011-11-29 16:09

The Western Cape High Court has ordered the ANC to hand over the report of its internal inquiry into the “brown envelope” scandal involving former provincial premier Ebrahim Rasool and two Independent Newspapers journalists.

Today’s judgement by Judge B.M. Griesel follows an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) by the newspaper group and Cape Argus editor Gasant Abader last year to get access to the report. The ANC investigation followed rumours that Rasool had indirectly used public funds to pay the two journalists to write stories favourable to him, while rubbishing his opponents in the Western Cape ANC.

The ANC investigation is believed to have led to Rasool’s unceremonious ousting in 2008 from his former position, and he has since been re-deployed as the country’s ambassador to the USA capital of Washington.

In its court papers, the Independent Newspapers group invoked the right of freedom to impart and transmit information and the right to protect its reputation from allegations that it had covered up the full extent of the scandal.

The ANC had initially refused to give Independent Newspapers the report, which was compiled by ANC member and Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel, saying it belonged to a private body and that the information had been obtained on condition of confidentiality.

ANC secretary Gwede Mantashe argued in an affidavit before the court that the newspaper group had not proved that “an internal document of a private body is sought to exercise or protect any of their constitutionally enshrined rights”. He said it would be “untenable if the ANC were to be compelled to make public its internal investigations regarding its own internal affairs”.

Today, the court found that the newspaper group was entitled and obliged to investigate the full extent of the “brown envelope” scandal as far it impacts on its reputation.

“To the extent that the Nel report may deal with aspects surrounding Rasool’s relationship with Independent Newspapers journalists; payments made to those journalists (or entities connected with them); and the effect all of this had on this redeployment, the applicants (Independent Newspapers) are undoubtedly entitled to access such information in the exercise and protection of their rights and in the execution of their duty to ferret out corruption, dishonesty and graft wherever it may occur and expose the perpetrators,” said Griesel in his ruling.

The court ruled that the ANC should hand over the Nel report in its entirety within five days so it could decide whether or not it contains the information the applicants require to exercise their rights, and whether they should get parts of it or the entire report.

Western Cape ANC secretary Songezo Mjongile referred queries about the matter to the ANC headquarters.

ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said the party would await a briefing from its legal team before deciding on its next course of action.

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