South Africa's Supreme of Court of Appeal has ordered President Zuma in a groundbreaking judgment highly critical of the South African Government to disclose a report written for his predecessor by two judges on constitutional and other legal issues arising from the presidential election in Zimbabwe in 2002.
President Mbeki requested Justices Moseneke and Khampepe (respectively the current Deputy Chief Justice and a member of the Constitutional Court) to visit Zimbabwe in the run-up to the election to assess its legalities. He thereafter refused to disclose the report. Invoking the right to information under South Africa's Bill of Rights and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the Mail & Guardian newspaper successfully obtained a High Court order for the report to be produced. President Zuma appealed the order to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Delivering judgment for a unanimous court, Justice Robert Nugent dismissed the President's attempt to invoke statutory exemptions from disclosure on grounds of confidential interstate relations (because the judges were ‘envoys' of the President) and that the report was a Cabinet document.
The judgment is seen as particularly important at a time of threatened media restrictions in South Africa, and with a new election scheduled for Zimbabwe early next year.
The judgment is here.
Jeremy Gauntlett SC was leading counsel for the Mail & Guardian.