OUTA takes Public Protector to court over David Mabuza's cars

We want the documents we asked for in our PAIA application.

18/02/2020 11:54:24

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA takes Public Protector to court over David Mabuza's cars

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA has filed an application to demand access to documents used by the Public Protector in her report which exonerated David Mabuza of procurement irregularities while he was premier of Mpumalanga.

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA’s application was filed in the Pretoria High Court on 17 February 2020, citing Busisiwe Mkhwebane in her capacity as Public Protector (PP) as the first respondent, and the PP’s Chief Executive Officer and Information Officer as second and third respondents respectively.

                                                                                                                                                            The application arises from Mkhwebane’s refusal to comply with OUTA’s access to information request in July 2019 in connection with her report on Mabuza. The report, released in May 2019, was on an investigation into the procurement in January 2014 of four official vehicles for Mabuza when he was premier of Mpumalanga. The PP’s report found the procurement irregular but absolved Mabuza of any blame.

                                                                                                                                                            After the report was released, OUTA applied in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to the Public Protector for certain information referred to in the report.

                                                                                                                                                            The Public Protector refused to provide this information.

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA believes that Mkhwebane had acted ultra vires (not within her power) in this matter, including by personally refusing to grant access to the records. Her letter is contained in the court papers. In terms of PAIA it is only the Information Officer of a public body who may formally grant or refuse access to a request for information. Such disregard or misinterpretation of the provisions of the PAIA may pose a threat to the credibility and integrity of the office of the Public Protector.

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA’s application asks the court to declare the Public Protector’s refusal to provide the information unlawful and to direct her to provide it.

                                                                                                                                                            The Registrar of the Pretoria High Court has provided OUTA with a provisional date of 5 November 2020 for the matter to be heard on an unopposed basis. This date is likely to change should the Public Protector oppose OUTA’s application.
                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                                            Parliamentary inquiry
                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                                            Mkhwebane is currently facing a possible inquiry by Parliament into her fitness to hold office following various complaints against her and court judgments critical of her decisions. The Speaker has agreed to table a motion brought by the DA which proposes holding an inquiry into Mkhwebane; as part of this, the Speaker is expected to announce by the end of this month the three-person panel which will consider preliminary evidence on the motion.

                                                                                                                                                            In June 2019, OUTA petitioned Parliament, calling for an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office, based on various court rulings. In September 2019, OUTA provided Parliament with further information to back up the petition.

                                                                                                                                                            In August 2019, OUTA filed charges of perjury against Mkhwebane, arising from the July 2019 Constitutional Court judgment which overturned one of her reports.

                                                                                                                                                            Details of these matters brought by OUTA are here.

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA’s papers
                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                                            A copy of OUTA’s February 2020 application to the Pretoria High Court over the PAIA application is here.

                                                                                                                                                            OUTA is a proudly South African civil action organisation, that is purely crowd funded. Our work is supported by ordinary citizens who are passionate about holding government accountable and ensuring our taxes are used to the benefit of all South Africans.