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Ramaphosa loses court bid to prevent release of Zuma reshuffle records

18 September 2019 - 12:58 By Nonkululeko Njilo
President Cyril Ramaphosa with former president Jacob Zuma.
President Cyril Ramaphosa with former president Jacob Zuma.
Image: Siyabulela Duda/The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa Follow/Flickr

The presidency has lost a bid for leave to appeal a court ruling that ordered the release of records relating to the cabinet reshuffle two years ago that saw Pravin Gordhan removed as minister of finance by then-president Jacob Zuma.

The case stems from the DA’s court bid to challenge the controversial March 2017 reshuffle.

At the time, the SACP asserted that Zuma had used a document claiming to emanate from international intelligence to justify his recall of Gordhan from an international investor road show and to motivate the reshuffle.

The DA wanted Zuma to furnish it with a record of his decision about the reshuffle, as required by Rule 53 of the Uniform Rules of the Court.

When no record of decision was forthcoming, the DA approached the high court in Pretoria to compel Zuma to do so. The high court in May 2017 ordered Zuma to disclose the record.

When Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as president, he decided to take up the fight, unsuccessfully, in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Ramaphosa had argued before the Constitutional Court that the judgment would lead to future interference by the judiciary in executive decisions. In its heads of argument, the DA had argued that the high court did not breach the separation of powers doctrine.

In a majority decision on Wednesday, read by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the Constitutional Court dismissed Ramaphosa's application with costs.

Mogoeng found it was not in the interest of justice to entertain an appeal against an interlocutory order.

“When the president’s decision to appoint or dismiss is impunged in the future and he/she is asked for information that is similar to that asked for in this matter, it would then be open to (the president) to confront that challenge squarely. Only then may we, if the matter ultimately gets to us, traverse the merits that would allow to provide the guidance now asked for,” read the judgment.