Publication: Sapa Issued: Date: 2006-02-10 Reporter: Sapa Reporter: Reporter:

Lekota Must Give Docs to Young, Court Rules






Date 2006-02-10



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Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota must hand over certain documents about the multibillion rand arms deal to Richard Young, whose company CCII Systems Ltd was one of the losing bidders, the Pretoria High Court decided on Friday.

This was the effect of a judgment by Judge Brian Southwood, who turned down Lekota's application for leave to appeal against a judgment given in April last year.

Southwood at the time ordered that Lekota, within two months, had to hand over the required documents to Young.

Young, whose company lost out on a contract to supply combat technology to the South African Navy's corvettes, applied for access to the documents under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

The documents he sought pertained to the sub-systems to be installed on the corvettes.

Lekota's counsel at the time argued that government was entitled under the act to withhold certain of the information if it was confidential. Southwood on Friday also refused Lekota condonation for the late filing of his application for leave to appeal.

The minister's notice of application for leave to appeal was filed more than two months late. Following the April judgment Lekota did not hand over the documents as ordered. More than a month later the deputy information officer of the defence department asked for an extension of two and a half weeks to comply with the order. This time lapsed without any documents being handed to Young.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) had in the meantime decided to obtain a legal opinion on the prospects of success in appealing against Southwood's April ruling, and the implications of that ruling. On June 8 last year a meeting of the Defence Staff Council decided that the judgment should not be challenged.

Reasons included that the Defence Staff thought that Young was already in possession of most *1, if not all, the documents he wanted to see. The secretary of defence, January Masilela, however, later recommended that the minister should seek leave to appeal against the judgment in view of the effect it was likely to have on the Republic's international and trade relations and the arms industry in general.

The grounds for leave to appeal included that Lekota had proved that the requested documents fell under sections of the act which protected information from being disclosed. Southwood, however, found that this argument did not hold water and that the confidentiality sections in the act were not applicable in this case.

He further said Masilela's explanation for late filing of leave to appeal did not stand up to scrutiny. "It is significant that the applicant (Lekota) decided, despite advice given by senior counsel, to appeal for reasons other than the applicant's prospects of success," Southwood said.

Regarding the merits of the appeal, Southwood said in his opinion Lekota had no success of succeeding in an appeal. He ordered Lekota (in his official capacity) to pay the legal costs of the hearing.

With acknowledgement to Sapa.

*1  This is as dishonest as one can get.

The whole exercise is one of delay, buying time and expending an opponent's time and resources