Johannesburg - Sanef on Monday welcomed a High Court ruling that the refusal by three companies to give City Press newspaper access to its share registers was criminal.

“Sanef welcomed this decision as important because it confirms legal provisions for providing access to information and increases transparency in the conduct of affairs in the country in terms of the Constitution,” the SA National Editors' Forum said in a statement.

“This is particularly welcome at a time when government and others are increasingly trying to prevent the disclosure of information about the identity of people who benefit from state, provincial or municipal tenders and other projects.”

It commended City Press for “pursuing the matter as diligently as it did”.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled on the matter on Wednesday.

City Press had applied for access to the companies' share registers, which shows who owns the companies, in September last year.

Judge Sulet Potterill said the companies, On-Point Engineers, SGL Engineering and Gwama Properties, reportedly linked to former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, a year later had still not given reasons why City Press would not be entitled to see the registers.

It was argued the newspaper did not have the right to access the share registers of private companies under the 2008 Companies Act.

However, Potterill in her judgment said access provisions had been replicated from the old 2008 act to the new act, which was amended in April 2011.

Potterill ordered the companies to allow City Press to inspect or make copies of the securities registers.

According to court papers submitted in a separate case, it was alleged that Malema had clear business ties with On-Point Engineers director Lesiba Gwangwa and benefited from fraudulent tenders awarded to the company.

Malema's Ratanang Family Trust was also shown to be an indirect shareholder in On-Point.

Gwama Properties was 100 percent owned by Guilder Investment, indicating that the Ratanang Trust had an indirect shareholding in Gwama Properties.

SGL Engineering Project is 70 percent owned by Malema and 30 percent owned by Gwangwa. - Sapa