Judge Brenda Neukircher withheld judgment in the North Gauteng high court on Thursday in the matter of civil rights group AfriForum’s urgent interdict application to stop the department of international relations and cooperation from making a R50-million “donation” to Cuba.
Neukircher said that a written judgment would be handed down next week.
AfriForum had submitted that the multimillion-rand donation was in breach of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), given that the funds were obtained from a 2020/2021 surplus.
“[The act] stipulates that funds may not be carried over to the following year. Given that it is already 2022, the funds should have been repaid to the national treasury,” AfriForum argued.
It said that “proper parliamentary process was not followed” as the donation was not approved by the national legislature, as per the PFMA.
Advocate Hephzibah Rajah, acting for the department, told the court that the decision to allocate the funds had already been made, but that it “was not yet binding given that further steps towards concluding the agreement were still outstanding between the two governments”.
Responding to the arguments, Neukircher said “there hasn’t been a completion of the steps by which the actual money will be transferred”.
“The question is whether AfriForum has a case of irrationality based on these court papers. And I must tell you, I am concerned that they haven’t,” she said.
The application to obtain the interdict is part A of AfriForum’s application. Part B involves a revision application to have the decision to donate the funds to Cuba overturned. Part B will be heard on a later date.
International relations minister Naledi Pandor justified her department’s donation in parliament earlier this month, saying all legal requirements were followed.
“The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, which is located within Dirco, and which is legally constituted to implement humanitarian assistance of this nature, is coordinating the project with relevant stakeholders, following all necessary legal prescripts,” said Pandor. She was responding to a question from the Democratic Alliance’s Willem Faber.
Pandor said the finance minister gave his approval to release an amount of R50 million from the ARF, after which the acting director-general of Dirco approved the request for humanitarian assistance to Cuba. The minister said that the implementation of the request was through the supply chain management processes as regulated by the PFMA.
AfriForum joined opposition parties and dozens of nonprofit organisations opposing the R50 million donation for hunger relief in Cuba.
On 27 February, at least 60 nonprofit organisations handed a petition to the department in which they said they strongly opposed the planned donation.
“[It] is a travesty of justice to allow millions of rands to exit South Africa while over 50 million of our own people suffer the injustices of hunger every day,” the organisations said in a joint statement.