Durban - The IFP has launched a direct legal attack on the decision by the eThekwini municipality not to publicly release the Manase report on fraud and corruption in the city – and it will take the matter to the Constitutional Court if it has to.
The party filed papers in the Durban High Court on Monday aimed at setting aside what it calls the “unconstitutional decision” and it has invited any other parties acting in the public interest to join in the legal battle against the city’s decision to keep the report under wraps “for apparently suspicious reasons”.
The thrust of the court challenge is that the decision was not made in the public interest, that it violates the bill of rights and has resulted in a waste of public money.
In his affidavit, Mdudusi Nkozi, IFP caucus chairman, says the party is acting in its own interests “as one concerned with corruption” and in the broader public interest.
“Without corrupt practices being exposed there is not only a risk that such practices will continue unhindered but also the voting public will be denied an opportunity to assess the conduct of individuals and to demand appropriate action,” he said.
Nkozi said the council and Nomusa Dube, the MEC for co-operative governance, had consistently refused to release the full contents of the report to the public.
Regarding the background, he said Manase and Associates had been paid about R14.9 million to prepare the report – money which came from taxpayers.
Early last year, the company and the MEC invited any person to come forward with information and the IFP had responded by providing input and evidence about corruption which its members had witnessed specifically with regard to housing and transport.
The report had been completed early this year. A presentation had been made to councillors “in committee” at which it was said that 123 officials had been implicated in misconduct.
“In total, the report is alleged to have investigated R19.4 billion of unauthorised expenditure in violation of the Municipal Finance Management Act. The entire operating budget is R26.5bn which reveals the extent of the alleged fraud and corruption uncovered.”
Nkozi said the full contents of the report had, to date, not been disclosed in spite of several promises that they would.
“Right from the start, we made it clear the publication of only the concise report was inadequate and unconstitutional.
“Despite calls from opposition parties, the recommendations concerning the report were never presented to council and the report was never again placed on the council agenda,” he said.
At the end of June this year, the municipal manager, S’bu Sithole, presented a five-minute “debrief” to the executive committee saying he had appointed an advocate to advise on the report.
Sithole said in the meantime, only two members from each political party could arrange to view the report, under supervision, and would then have to sign confidentiality agreements saying they would not divulge what they had read, even to members of their own parties.
Nkozi said this in itself was unconstitutional and “undermined democracy”.
Nkozi said the party had made a formal application in September for the report but had never received a reply.
“Despite political and media pressure, and repeated promises that the report would be released, it has become apparent that no action is being taken and the only option left is to go to court,” Nkozi said.
“The public has a right to know which of its elected officials are alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices.”
The respondents have 15 days to file notices of opposition.