Publication: Sapa Issued: Pretoria Date: 2005-04-15 Reporter: Sapa Reporter:

Lekota Must Hand Over Arms Deal Documents











Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota was ordered to hand over certain arms deal documents to Richard Young by the Pretoria High Court on Friday.

Young's company CCII Systems lost out on a contract to supply combat technology for the South African Navy's corvettes.

In his latest application, Young once again relied on the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

He sought an order directing Lekota to furnish him with certain copies pertaining to the sub-systems to be installed on corvettes ordered by the Department of Defence for use by the SA Navy.

Young claimed he was wrongfully excluded as a tenderer for the supply of these sub-systems. He implied there were irregularities regarding the tender procedure on the part of the State's representatives. He also claimed unlawful business practices.

Young had meanwhile instituted a R150 million claim in this regard against the government. On January 15, 2002, Young requested that the Department of Defence, in terms of the relevant provisions of the Act, furnish him with information.

He subsequently received some documents, but Lekota refused to hand over others.

Young lodged an internal appeal, which he lost.

Lekota relied on the sections of the Act which prescribed that certain information may be withheld if they contained secret and confidential information.

Judge Southwood said that when a request for access was refused, the Act required the furnishing of adequate reasons for the refusal.

"The public body must demonstrate to the court that it has considered each document with severance in mind. It must identify the part of the document which contained the protected material, give a proper indication of its contents and why disclosure is protected..."

Southwood said unless Lekota discharged the onus of showing that the whole document was protected, he had failed to establish what part he was entitled to withhold.

The judge said Lekota did not establish objective grounds for refusing to disclose the information Young sought.

In awarding a costs order against the government, the judge commented that the issues were complex and that the Act had not yet been the subject of many reported cases.

Young has fought an ongoing battle to get hold of documents relating to the controversial arms deal.

He also relied on this Act in earlier applications, which included a demand that the Auditor General Shauket Fakie, provide him with the Audit General's report regarding the R60 billion deal.

Fakie refused to disclose certain portions of the report and stated at the time he believed he was entitled to refuse access to any document falling under this Act.

Judge Willie Hartzenberg last year ordered Fakie to hand over certain of the documents.

Young, however, went back to court and complained that Fakie still had not provided him with all the documents which fell under the court order.

Judge Annemarie de Vos then declared Fakie to be in contempt of court.

In November Fakie was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein against the contempt ruling.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.