The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) is taking Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi to the High Court in an attempt to force him to disclose the details of public spending at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla estate. The centre filed a request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) in July for details of the “procurement by the state of goods or services to improve, upgrade, alter, add to or secure the Nkandla estate of the president”. Though the request made it clear only information relating to the “financial implications” and not “the technical detail of security-sensitive improvements” was sought, public works director-general Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie turned it down on the basis the estate was a “national key point” and the information classified. The centre appealed to Nxesi in September, pointing out that the response did not comply with Paia. But Nxesi has failed to respond, despite the Act specifying a 30-day limit. The centre filed an application in the North Gauteng High Court in November, appealing Nxesi’s “deemed refusal” of the information. Both parties have now filed affidavits in court.
Centre joint managing partner Stefaans Brümmer said the court application was brought in the public interest. “This is to get to the bottom of how massive amounts of public money got to be spent at Nkandla. It is also to challenge the minister and his department’s blatant disregard for Paia, a constitutionally-mandated Act of parliament.” Attorneys Webber Wentzel are acting for the centre.
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.