The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) is taking Polokwane Municipality to court in yet another protracted struggle to squeeze what should be public information from a government branch.
The information relates to an August 2011 amaBhungane investigation that revealed a long list of connected individuals who benefited from the public sale of highly sought-after municipal land in 2009.
The article bolstered claims by those in the know that an inner circle of Limpopo politicians, officials and businessmen – close to Julius Malema and Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale – had used their influence to benefit from what should have been a public sale conducted on a first-come, first-served basis.
At the time of the article, the centre asked the municipality to provide the list of potential buyers – those who allegedly “came first” and were “served first”. But spokesperson Simon Mokoatedi refused, saying the centre should request the information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia):
More than 19 months after amaBhungane phoned spokesperson Mokoatedi to ask for the list, the centre has lodged an application in the North Gauteng High Court seeking an order for the release of the information.
AmaBhungane advocacy co-ordinator Vinayak Bhardwaj said the application was made “in the interest of promoting transparency, in keeping with our commitment to journalism in the public interest and in order to challenge Polokwane’s the blatant disregard for constitutionally-derived legislation”.
Attorneys Webber Wentzel are acting for the centre.
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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.
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