The contents of the disputed Khampepe Report in the 2002 Zimbabwe elections are finally to be made public after the Constitutional Court turned down an application by government to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that the report be handed over.
This is likely to be the final chapter of a five year battle – and at least five court cases by lawyers for the Mail & Guardian – to gain access to a report by Constitutional Court justices Sisi Khampepe and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
It has been claimed that there was vote-rigging in those elections, but the report has never been made public.
The Constitutional Court on Friday dismissed a request by government to appeal the appeal court ruling, saying that “the application should be dismissed as it bears no prospects of success”.
The appeal court had on September 19 dismissed, with costs, the attempt by the presidency to appeal a high court order by Pretoria high court judge Joseph Raulinga that it should hand over the Khampepe report to the M&G, which would mean it would in reality become a public document.
The process has not been without its drama. The report went missing briefly earlier this year from Raulinga’s office. The state argued that it could not be compelled to hand over the report if it was no longer in existence.
The report was eventually found, and it was decided a copy should be stored at the office of the president of the appeal court Lex Mpati.
A resounding victory
M&G’s lawyer Dario Milo of Webber Wentzel said on Friday that they were in the process of applying to the registrar of the appeal court for permission to go and collect the document being stored in Bloemfontein.
“We are ecstatic that a five year battle has finally come to a close,” he said. “The judgment is a resounding victory for guaranteeing the rights of access to information.”
He said it sends a message to “public bodies to not reject requests for access to information without a good basis”.
Observers, such as those from Norway, claimed that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF had used violence to sway the vote, while others raised concerns about changes in citizenship rules and voter registration, saying this amounted to vote-rigging.
The presidency, under Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, have continued to refuse to allow the contents of the documents to be disclosed.