Citizen Reporter
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6 minute read
10 May 2017
4:16 pm

Zuma’s lawyers demand DA give them spy report Zuma ‘used’ to fire Gordhan

Citizen Reporter

If you are confused, we don't blame you.

AFP/File / Jekesai Njikizana

Following the Pretoria High Court’s order for President Jacob Zuma to provide the DA with records and reasons for reshuffling his Cabinet in March, his legal team has now requested that the party hand over the so-called intelligence report Zuma purportedly used to fire the then finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

According to eNCA reporter Karyn Maughan, it’s unclear whether Zuma is denying the existence of the intelligence report, despite the fact that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, and other officials of the governing party and its alliance partners confirmed Zuma told them that he had read it or been aware of its contents.

Later, Zuma apparently changed his stated reason for having removed Gordhan as that there was a breakdown in their relationship, a reason the ANC leadership appeared more willing to accept.

Bizarrely, Zuma’s lawyers now want the DA to provide them with the full report and explain where it came from. They are apparently using the fact that the DA refers to the intelligence report in their papers as the reason for demanding it from the DA, though it’s highly unlikely the DA has ever seen this report, the very existence of which has in any case always been in doubt.

On March 27, Zuma recalled Gordhan and his Treasury delegation from an international investor roadshow to the United Kingdom and the United States after it was widely reported that the intelligence report, known as Operation Checkmate, alleged that the sacked ministers were plotting to remove the president from power by working with overseas investors and credit ratings agencies.

Gordhan and his delegation, which included business and labour representatives, were expected to embark on a non-deal international investor roadshow at the time.

Last Thursday, Judge Bashir Vally ruled in favour of the DA’s urgent application after the party approached the high court on April 24 to compel Zuma to disclose the reasons for changing his executive team on March 30.

On Tuesday Vally said Rule 53 of the uniform rules of the court can be applied to legal challenges to review and set aside an executive order or decision.

The request by Zuma’s lawyers comes as the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and My Vote Counts NPC (MVC) approached the Constitutional Court to also set aside Zuma’s decision to fire Gordhan and to declare that he and the National Assembly had violated their constitutional duties.

 

Later on Wednesday: 

In a statement released by the Presidency on Wednesday night, Zuma outlined 12 grounds, related to rule 35 (12), for appealing the judgment handed down by Judge Bashier Vally, obliging him to submit his reasons for the March Cabinet reshuffle in which he fired Pravin Gordhan as finance minister.

Zuma was arguing that the court ought to have found that the Democratic Alliance was not entitled to the records because of the nature of the executive decision and that Rule 35 does not cover it.

“The High Court erred in finding that Rule 53 must be read to include executive decisions, even though nothing in the language of Rule 53 suggests that it should be interpreted to include executive decisions. Such an approach violates the separation of powers,” the statement read outlining one of the grounds of appeal.

Zuma said that the court held in Paragraph 21 that Rule 53 had not been amended to cater for the record in respect of executive decisions, therefore the Court erred in holding that as a “purposive interpretation will, nevertheless bring executive decisions under Rule 53”.

He said that the court erred to act ex mero motu amend Rule 53 to include the review of executive descisions.

“The High Court ought to have found that decisions of the nature of the impugned decision do not fall within the ambit of Rule 53 at all. It is not sufficient to end the enquiry at whether or not rationality applies. The nature of the executive decision and the remedy sought are important to consider,” the Presidency said.

“The court ought to have found that not considering the nature of the executive decision in determining whether or not to furnish the record, would lead to a violation of the separation of powers doctrine, which is part of our constitutional scheme.”

The chairman of the federal executive of the Democratic Alliance, James Selfe, said that Zuma had further filed a notice in terms of Rule 35(12) to request that the DA should provide him with the so-called “intelligence report” which was widely cited by senior members of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party as having been used by Zuma as grounds for first recalling Gordhan from an investor roadshow in London, and then firing him from Cabinet four days later.

The demand that the DA give him the report was a “bizarre” step, Selfe said.

“We are led to conclude that President Zuma is using this medium as another delaying tactic in avoiding accountability for his disastrous reshuffle that has severe consequences for all people of South Africa.”

But the director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights Phephelaphi Dube told eNCA she saw it as a “master stroke” on Zuma’s part, and noted that he had never publicly relied on the so-called intelligence report.

“I would consider that as a masterstroke … I think that allegations had been made by another members by the (ANC’s) National Executive Council, so the president himself has not in public relied on the intelligence report.”

The reported allegedly claimed that Gordhan was plotting against Zuma but was widely dismissed as fabricated.

Last week, Judge Bashier Vally gave Zuma until the end of this week to provide the court with the record of his reasons for replacing the finance minister and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas. Vally said while the presidential prerogative to appoint Cabinet members was wide, it was not unfettered in the manner that “the royal prerogative” was in days bygone.

The ruling was condemned by the African National Congress, who urged Zuma to lodge an appeal and accused the judiciary of pandering to opposition parties.

The DA wants the decision to sack Gordhan and Jonas set aside as irrational. But in order to challenge it, it needed Zuma’s reasons for doing so. When he did not supply this readily, the party turned to the court to compel him to do so.

On Wednesday, the Presidency said that the court erred to not consider whether the remedy sought could be obtained.

“The High Court ought to have found that the executive decision in question is the exercise of a constitutional power, and is a decision of the nature that does not call for the production of the record and reasons in terms of rule 53. Alternatively, it ought to have found that the statement of 31 March 2017 from the Presidency is sufficient to meet the test of rationality and therefore no further record was required.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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