Zuma spy tapes: Zille may not keep her word

2014-09-03 16:16

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Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille’s promise that South Africans only had to wait five more days for the controversial spy tapes may be a promise that she can’t keep.

Media24 confirmed today that the DA is worried that there may be legal principles that could prevent the party from making the much discussed tapes available tomorrow.

James Selfe, chairperson of the DA’s federal council, confirmed yesterday that the DA was looking at a recent Western Cape High Court judgment to determine whether this could have a bearing on the release of the spy tapes.

Selfe told Media24 they were “looking at only one implication of a particular judgment, and as soon as we are sure we are entitled to make them available, we will do so”.

The case he is referring to is the ruling by Judge Ashley Binns-Ward in the Western Cape High Court between the City of Cape Town and the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral). The Sanral case dealt with a revision application, just like the DA’s spy tapes case.

Binns-Ward found in his judgment that principles of South African common law prevent a court file being made available to parties other than those who are involved in the application before the case is heard in court.

Alison Tilley, public relations head at the Open Democracy Advice Centre, said that a court file had previously been a public document but this is no longer the case in the Western Cape High Court. “Now it is only the parties involved who are entitled to these documents. Third parties will have to apply to obtain access to the documents.”

Though Binns-Wood’s ruling is not necessarily binding on the North Gauteng High Court – where the DA’s case is being heard – the DA is apparently worried about the implications that this judgment could have.

The party announced last Thursday after a victory in the Supreme Court of Appeal that they were planning to release the spy tapes.

The appeal court instructed the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to file the spy tapes in the court within five days.

Zille welcomed the court’s decision as a milestone in South’s Africa legal history.

“After five years of asking the NPA to give us the tapes, and after six court applications by President Jacob Zuma’s team to halt this, South Africans now only have to wait five more days,” she said.

Selfe said the DA is eager to make the tapes available to the public, but is awaiting advice from its legal team.

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