Containment: Cogta Minister still silent

Henry

Sakeliga brought a High Court application to have the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) declared guilty of contempt of court.

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

If Sakeliga succeeds with this contempt application, the current minister, Thembi Nkadimeng, will be obliged to make public the records that both she and her predecessor, dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has so far withheld.

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

“Sakeliga remains committed to bringing transparency to the disaster policies of 2020,” says Piet le Roux, CEO of Sakeliga. “These unprecedented state interventions have had serious short- and long-term consequences. Our goal is to ensure that the state cannot again make such drastic and socio-economically harmful interventions based on opaque processes, unclear rationale, and unpublished assessments of broad social consequences.”

Le Roux says in 2020 it was dr. Dlamini-Zuma, as Minister of Cogta, who approved and took the decisions on Covid disaster regulations. Towards the end of that year, Sakeliga submitted a Paia request for records of decision-making on the ongoing state of disaster declarations. She refused Sakeliga’s request.

When Sakeliga obtained a court order to compel disclosure in November 2022, she did not comply. Then, in February 2023, before an application for contempt of court could be finalized against her, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma replaced as Cogta minister by Nkadimeng, the current minister.

“The change of minister has consistently delayed the proceedings in 2023, due to the necessity of giving the current minister an opportunity to comply. However, Nkadimeng failed to take advantage of the opportunity to comply and has now found himself in contempt of the November 2022 order. She was therefore added as the key respondent to our contempt application, both in her official and personal capacity. If she does not comply, she will be on the receiving end of the serious court sanctions imposed by Dr. Dlamini-Zuma would be faced.”

After three years, Sakeliga’s longest battle to obtain records from the state under Paia moves to the next important phase.

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

The latest contempt proceedings aim to finalize the case and provide clarity on the deliberation and decision-making processes that took place in the lead-up to harmful and irrational policies that led to millions of job losses, business closures, and destruction of wealth.

Although the Cogta minister has handed over some records in relation to the Paia request since a court order in favor of Sakeliga in November 2022, the minister has not substantially complied, adds Le Roux. “Many critical records remain outstanding, and on some of the monthly decisions to extend the state of disaster regulations, no records have been provided at all.”

The application was brought in the High Court in Pretoria. Click here to see a full list of records requested by Sakeliga in 2020.