District Six costs order: Minister 'playing hide and seek' with taxpayers' money, court hears

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. (Tebogo Letsie/City Press)
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. (Tebogo Letsie/City Press)

Former rural development and land reform minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane is sticking to her guns that she should not be compelled to pay the legal costs associated with the failure to produce a plan to redevelop District Six out of her own pocket.

Her legal team, which is applying for leave to appeal the personal costs order, insisted in the Land Claims Court in Cape Town on Thursday that she had not deliberately missed the court deadline and was acting in her official capacity as the minister at the time.

Last year, Nkoana-Mashabane was hit with a personal costs order after the court ruled that her department at the time had not adequately prepared a plan to redevelop District Six by the court's timeline.

Geoff Budlender, acting for the District Six claimants, on Thursday argued Nkoana-Mashabane was using taxpayers' money to dodge paying her legal bill. In the end, he said, it would cost more to appeal the costs order.

ALSO READ: District Six land claimants optimistic about R1.5bn redevelopment plan

Budlender also revealed that, according to letters from the opposing counsel, the women, children and people with disabilities department, where she is now a minister, was paying for the current application before the court.

"What this case has to do with the ministry of women is difficult to discern…" he said.

Nkoana-Mashabane's legal team would not confirm this, saying it had not received instructions to reveal to the court who was paying it to represent her.

This prompted Acting Judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi to remark: "She is grossly negligent. She has made those people to wait for 25 years. She is playing hide and seek with taxpayers' money."

After an adjournment was granted for the minister's counsel, advocate Hellen Ngomane, to take instructions from her attorney, she asked the court for a 15-day postponement to provide it with clarity on who was paying her legal fees.

Ngcukaitobi ruled that current Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza be given five days to indicate to the court whether she was pursuing the application for leave to appeal on behalf of her predecessor, and if so, on what basis.

Nkoana-Mashabane was given seven days to tell the court whether her new department would be paying for her current application, and if so why.

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