The controversial report on the Zimbabwean presidential elections in 2002 may now, after more than 10 years, be released into the public domain.
The Pretoria High Court on Thursday finally granted an order in favour of the Mail & Guardian that the report be released to it after a battle which stretched over a number of years.
The matter went before the high court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, which both ruled that the report be released to the Mail & Guardian.
The Presidency, however, took the matter to the Constitutional Court, which in a majority judgment referred it back to the high court. The highest court said the high court had to invoke its power to examine the report to decide on the State’s claims that it should not to be released in the public domain.
But Judge Joseph Raulinga, after taking a “judicial peek” at the “highly secret” report, ordered that a copy be made available to the Mail & Guardian within 10 days of yesterdays’ order.
He said in the event of the government appealing against this judgment, the report should remain embargoed until the appeal process was finalised.
The document pertains to a report by Judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke, who were commissioned in 2002 to observe the elections in Zimbabwe and report back to the government.
Their report was never released in the public domain, as the government claimed it would expose confidential information.
Former president Thabo Mbeki, who commissioned the judges to observe the elections, said he did this as he had received reports that specific questions had been raised regarding some of the laws being enacted in Zimbabwe and the ways in which they had been applied.
He said the aim of the report was to assist him in taking policy decisions on how best to support and strengthen the quest for political and economic stability in Zimbabwe. According to him the report was never meant for the public domain.
Judge Raulinga said in his judgment that it was common cause that the report contained the findings of the two judges regarding the Zimbabwean elections as well as issues regarding human rights.
This included whether the legal requirements for the elections were met.
“I can now confirm that this is what the report reflects. This can never reasonably be construed as information supplied in confidence by or on behalf of another state. In my view most of the information is public knowledge. The report itself does not reveal that it was intended to be kept secret,” said Judge Raulinga.
“I can reveal that (it) potentially discloses evidence of a substantial contravention of, or failure to comply with the law… I am of the view that the public interest supersedes the harm that may ensue should the report be released.” Pretoria News