Lekota Told to Hand Over Arms Deal Papers
Cape Town businessman Richard Young has managed to pry a new set of papers from government hands relating to South Africa's controversial arms deal and a subsequent probe.
On Friday Pretoria High Court judge Mr Justice Brian Southwood gave judgment in favour of Young's company CCII Systems against the Minister of Defence, Mosiuoa Lekota.
Young had asked the court to order Lekota, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to produce copies of records relating to the subsystems for the corvettes that had formed part of South Africa's multi-billion arms deal.
CCII Systems also tendered for the supply of some of the sub-systems during the arms deal and Young has, ever since the preferred bidders were announced, contended that CCII Systems was wrongfully excluded as a tenderer.
Young is pursuing a R150 million damages claim against the government.
He has asked for access to information held by the Department of Defence in terms of the access to information act.
The Department of Defence furnished some of the information requested but refused to furnish the rest.
They relied on a part of the act which allowed the department to withhold secret documents *1 despite a valid request.
In his judgment Judge Southwood said that proper reasons had to be given for refusing Young's request. He said that the Department of Defence was compelled to explain why they considered parts of the documents they claim to be secret, as excluded from the act.
He further said that unless they could show that the whole document was a secret, they could not refuse access to it.
He found that there were no objective reasons for Lekota to refuse Young access to these documents.
Apart from Lekota, Auditor-General Shauket Fakie has also been ordered by another judge to hand over documents *2 relating to the deal.
After he refused to do so, he was held in contempt of court but he will appeal against that ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Apart from winning his case on the merits, the court also ordered the Minister of Defence to pay Young's legal costs.
The Department of Defence has been ordered to supply Young with the information he requires within two months.
Among other things the court has ordered that he be given a copy of the covering letter which accompanied a joint investigation team's draft report (looking into allegations of irregularity committed in the deal) to the Department of Defence, notices by the Public Protector requiring attendance at the public phase of the joint investigation and notices from the Minister of Defence for authorisation in terms of the Defence Act to testify at the public phase of the joint investigation.
Young has persistently claimed that many and significant changes were made to the Joint Investigation Task Team's report before it was made public.
The Department of Defence was ordered to pay the costs of this application, including the costs of two counsels.
With acknowledgements to Estelle Ellis and the Cape Argus.
*1 The few, if any, of the records requested were classified as secret. The vast majority are not even classified.
They just contain nuggets of undisclosed information, historical facts and forgotten fictions.
*2 And still refuses to hand over the rest.
It is always educational and inspirational to learn that the stronger the refusal, the larger the lurking nugget.
Furtive glances at the office shredder not only invite the wrath of the Criminal Incarceration System (Policy X - girls are okay, but there's nothing like the real thing - sies), but in most cases it won't help because I already have the documents or know where to get them.