President Jacob Zuma can hold on to a report on the 2002 Zimbabwean presidential election for a little while longer, after the Constitutional Court referred the matter back to the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday.
Zuma had approached the highest court in a bid to appeal against a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) order that upheld the High Court ruling, ordering him to hand over the secret report to the Mail & Guardian newspaper.
Zuma had declined to hand over the report – which was compiled by Constitutional Court judges Dikgang Moseneke and Sisi Khampepe – after the Mail & Guardian had asked for access to it in 2008.
Zuma said disclosing the report would reveal information supplied in confidence by another state and that the report had been prepared for the purpose of assisting the president in formulating executive policy on Zimbabwe.
The Pretoria High Court, however, ruled against Zuma, and in upholding that ruling, the SCA declared that refusal to hand over the report was not justified in respect of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia).
The Constitutional Court judges dispatched the matter back to the Pretoria High Court, saying the judge there should be given access to the report to consider if Zuma’s refusal was justifiable.
“In all circumstances, the just and equitable order to make is to remit the matter to the High Court to enable it to examine the report pursuant to the provisions of section 80 (of the Paia) and thereafter to decide the merits of the exemptions claimed and the lawfulness of the refusal to disclose the record,” said Justice Zak Yacoob.