Minister to face music over lockdown documents

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Minister Thembi Nkadimeng briefing the media on the state of local government in the country. Picture: GCIS

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Minister Thembi Nkadimeng briefing the media on the state of local government in the country. Picture: GCIS

Published Jan 31, 2024


In the ongoing bid to find answers for the reasons behind the lockdown decisions made by government in 2020, which severely impacted the lives of people in the country, Sakeliga will once again turn to court.

It has brought a high court application to have the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs declared guilty of contempt of court.

The contempt relates to a failure to disclose, pursuant to a previous court order, records of the sweeping Covid-19 lockdown decisions made behind closed doors in 2020.

If Sakeliga succeeds in this contempt application, the current minister, Thembi Nkadimeng, will have to disclose the records both she and her predecessor, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, have so far kept from the public.

The sheriff confirmed to Sakeliga that papers were served to Nkadimeng on Friday.

Sakeliga said it remains committed to bringing transparency about the state of disaster policies of 2020.

These unprecedented state interventions had severe short-term and long-term consequences for many.

“Our goal is to ensure that the state cannot again initiate such drastic and socioeconomically damaging interventions on the basis of untransparent processes, opaque rationale, and unpublished assessments of broad societal consequences,” Sakeliga said.

In 2020, it was Dlamini Zuma, as minister, who approved and took the decisions on Covid-19 disaster regulations. At the end of that year, Sakeliga submitted a request for records of decision-making about the rolling state of disaster declarations. The minister refused Sakeliga's request. When Sakeliga obtained a court order in November 2022 to force disclosure, she failed to comply.

In February last year, before a contempt of court application against her could be finalised, Dlamini Zuma was replaced as minister by Nkadimeng.

The change in minister caused the proceedings to be delayed throughout last year , because of the necessity to afford the current minister an opportunity to comply. However, Nkadimeng failed to make use of this opportunity and has now also emerged into contempt of the November 2022 order, Sakeliga said.

It said that she has, therefore, been joined as the key respondent to their contempt application, both in her official and personal capacity.

“If she does not comply, she will be liable to face the serious court sanctions Dlamini Zuma would have faced,” the organisation said.

It is planning on obtaining answers pertaining to what led to the specific lockdown regulations and said that after three years, it is their longest battle yet to obtain records from the state under Promotion of Access to Information Act.

“Sakeliga remains committed to this process, because we believe it necessary to establish accountability and transparency at the highest state level and to prevent a repeat of such disastrous state interventions.”

The latest contempt proceedings due to be heard later before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, is aimed to bring finality to the matter and provide clarity on the decision-making processes, which among others, led to millions of job losses, business closures, and wealth-destruction.

While the minister has handed over some records related to the request since the court order in November 2022, the minister has not substantively complied. Many crucial records remain outstanding, and for some of the monthly decisions to extend the state of disaster regulations, no records at all have been provided, Sakeliga said.

Pretoria News

[email protected]