/ 23 February 2024

DA demands full ANC deployment record, threatens Mbalula with contempt charge

Fikile Mbalula (1)
ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula. Photo: Luba Lesolle/Gallo Images

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has given ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula two days to provide it with the full, unredacted minutes of its national deployment committee or face contempt of court charges.

The party says Mbalula unlawfully redacted some of the documents and failed to submit records for the period during which Cyril Ramaphosa was chair of the deployment committee between December 2012 and December 2017.

Lawyers acting for DA MP Leon Schreiber served Mbalula with a letter of demand on Thursday night.

In his affidavit to the court, Mbalula said redactions had been made to comply with the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia) and that the ANC no longer had the records for the period before 2018.

The DA said the ruling party had “infringed” the court order by “unilaterally redacting and thereby withholding select portions of the documents that have been disclosed”.

The DA objected “in particular” to the redaction of names of committee members, parties to communications and the individuals who had been discussed by the committee.

Its lawyers said Popia “does not require or authorise the ANC to conduct those redactions”, but even if it did, “the court order takes precedence”.

“Disclosure of the complete, unredacted records is required in order to comply with the order. Any processing of personal information which is entailed by making that disclosure is permissible under Popia because it constitutes compliance with a legal obligation which the ANC has,” they said.

Mbalula’s contention that Popia required the ANC to carry out the redactions was thus “unsustainable”, they said. “The duty is to disclose the full records.”

They said the ANC’s claim that it was not able to find any of the committee’s records from 1 January 2013 until May 2018 was “not credible”.

The ANC had at no stage of the three-year legal process indicated that these records were not available, while correspondence with the party’s legal head, Krish Naidoo, showed a willingness to disclose the information, “so inferring his knowledge of the record and that it existed”.

The ANC had also “failed to raise this as a defence at any stage in the litigation” and it had been legally obliged to inform the court if it did not have any of the information requested by the DA, the lawyers said.

If the ANC did not have the minutes, it could make available whatever digital records existed of the committee meetings, including correspondence.

“It is not credible for the ANC to claim that there exists no documentary or digital trace at all of any communications on the committee’s processes during this five-year period,” they said.

The president had told the Zondo state capture commission that people had taken notes in the committee’s meetings, so these could be traced and presented to the court by the ANC.

The DA lawyers said the ANC had also failed to list the committee’s decisions for that same period, which it had been legally obliged to do.

They demanded that the party provide them with the full record for the period, including computers owned by ANC personnel, one of whom might be open to charges in terms of Popia for allegedly destroying some records.

DA leader John Steenhuisen said that if the ANC did not adhere to the demand, the party would seek an urgent contempt of court ruling imposing prison time on Mbalula, who had acted on behalf of the ANC in this matter.

“We will use the precedent created in the Jacob Zuma case, when he was sent to prison for similarly being in contempt of a constitutional court order,” Steenhuisen said.

He said the DA would also pursue criminal charges against ANC officials involved in the destruction of information “as part of a blatant coverup campaign to try and wipe Ramaphosa’s fingerprints off of the cadre deployment records”.