An African National Congress report into a “brown envelope” scandal involving former Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool and two Independent Newspapers journalists was released to the newspaper group on Monday.
The company and Cape Argus editor Gasant Abader lodged a high court application last year in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to get the report.
Abader said on Monday: “The report does corroborate what we encountered before in our own investigation into this brown envelope issue. There are one or two surprises in there. We are still studying it.”
The ANC’s investigation followed rumours that Rasool indirectly used public funds to pay the two journalists to write stories favourable to him, while rubbishing his opponents in the Western Cape ANC. The money was reportedly handed to the journalists in brown envelopes.
The party’s investigation was believed to have led to Rasool’s ousting from his position in 2008. He has since been appointed as South Africa’s ambassador to Washington DC.
Late last year, Western Cape High Court judge Bennie Griesel ordered the ANC to give the court a full copy the report so he could examine it, before allowing it to be given to Independent Newspapers.
In its court papers, the Independent Newspapers group invoked the right of freedom to impart and transmit information, and the right to protect its reputation from allegations that it had covered up the full extent of the scandal.
The ANC initially refused to give Independent Newspapers the report, which was compiled by ANC member and Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel.
The party argued that the report belonged to a private organisation and the information had been obtained on condition of confidentiality.
The court found that the newspaper group was entitled to investigate the scandal as far as the issue affected its reputation.
Abader said it was important for the group to have pursued the matter through the courts.
“It was important for us to go this route so that we could guarantee the free flow of information. Former Argus journalists were implicated in this report. The report also mentioned a former premier of the Western Cape. That gives it compelling public interest.”
Abader said the group would continue investigating the matter.
The Western Cape government had also sent a dossier to the police to investigate certain departments that were in place when the scandal broke.
Abader said: “We will pursue the investigation with the police … As far as we are concerned this is an ongoing thing.”
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza was not immediately available for comment. — Sapa