Were Guptas responsible for leaked information on Manuel, Ramos?
Pretoria - Former finance minister Trevor Manuel is one step closer to finding answers as to who obtained and disclosed his personal information.
The High Court in Pretoria this week ordered that representatives of Gupta-owned company Sahara Computers and its former chief executive, Ashu Chawla, had to make themselves available to deliver oral evidence in court on whether they have, or ever had, any records in their possession regarding personal information and surveillance of Manuel and his wife, Maria Ramos. They must also subject themselves to cross-examination, Judge Sharise Weiner ordered.
Manuel turned to court to obtain answers because Chawla and Sahara denied that they had any records in their possession containing Manuel’s personal information.
The judge ordered that a date be arranged with the registrar of the court for the hearing of the oral evidence.
Manuel applied for access to this information in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
He told the court he believed his personal information had been unlawfully obtained and disclosed and subjected to unlawful surveillance.
This arose from a newspaper report titled “#GuptaLeaks: Guptas spied on Manuel, Malema and bank bosses”.
It was claimed in the report that emails and documents revealed that the family spied on prominent South Africans, including Manuel and Ramos.
It was also claimed that Chawla was at the centre of these emails, and had authorised an Excel spreadsheet setting out information regarding flights Manuel and Ramos had taken.
It was further claimed Chawla was in communication with moles within the Department of Home Affairs, who emailed Manuel’s CV to Tony Gupta. It was apparently forwarded by Chawla to an adviser of former Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba.
Manuel said it was not clear who was responsible for this unlawful conduct. He requested access to certain records to shed more light on this.
Sahara and Chawla denied him access to their records, and Manuel first asked the court to set aside these refusals. He later changed his application and asked the court that these parties be called to the witness stand to answer questions on these issues.
Both respondents told the court that records sought by Manuel did not exist and, if they did, they did not have them.
Manuel said while he could not say they had these records, he felt they were hiding something and lacked candour. He thus wanted them to be questioned on these issues.
In his answering affidavit, Chawla denied these allegations.
The judge commented that neither Chawla nor Sahara had challenged the facts in the news report, nor followed it up with any legal proceedings.