/ 6 October 2014

Another step back in access to disputed Khampepe report

Justice Sisi Khampepe
Justice Sisi Khampepe

The long awaited contents of the Khampepe report into the Zimbabwe 2002 elections are unlikely to be revealed in the near future after lawyers for the Mail & Guardian were informed on Monday that the Presidency intends appealing a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) finding that the report be handed over to the newspaper. 

Lawyers representing the M&G were informed on Monday that the presidency intends applying to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against the SCA ruling. The newspaper has been trying to gain access to a report commissioned by former president Thabo Mbeki and written by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe on the 2002 elections.  

It’s been claimed that there was vote-rigging in those elections. The SCA had earlier ruled that the documents must be handed over, but the Constitutional Court said the litigation process had to start again, as the judges concerned had to have a judicial peek at the documents. 

The state argues that insufficient weight was given to affidavits supplied by both Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma. In its application to the Constitutional Court, the state asked that the court clarify the scope and ambit of powers given in terms of section 80 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, within the context of the powers given to the president in terms of the Constitution and “limitations or exemptions that may legitimately be applied to the right of access to information held by the state”.  

It argues that the incumbent president has a responsibility to preserve and promote the policy interventions of his predecessors. The M&G has until October 20 to file its answering papers. 

Court win
The SCA on September 19 dismissed, with costs, the attempt by the presidency to appeal a high court order that it should hand the Khampepe report to the M&G – which in theory meant the report, on the freeness and fairness of the 2002 elections in Zimbabwe, would have become public.

Observers from the likes of Norway, on the other hand, said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF had used violence to sway the vote, while other observers pointed to changes in citizenship rules and voter registration as evidence of rigging.

Mugabe declared himself to have won 56.2% of the vote.

The presidency consistently argued – during the terms of both Kgalema Motlanthe and Zuma – that the contents of the report could not be disclosed.