The Constitutional Court has ordered President Cyril Ramaphosa to pay the costs in an application appealing a High Court ruling on the disclosure of records of decisions relating to the review of Cabinet changes during Jacob Zuma’s presidential term.
The matter dates back to 2017 when the DA petitioned the Gauteng High Court after Zuma’s infamous ‘midnight Cabinet reshuffle’ in which then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, were fired.
The DA, through a mechanism called Rule 53, challenged the constitutional validity of the reshuffle, arguing at the time that, it sought, among other measures, the disclosure of the record of Zuma’s decision.
However, after Ramaphosa was appointed, the Presidency took the matter to the country’s highest court to clarify whether Rule 53 was applicable when it came to executive decisions.
In a majority judgment penned and handed down by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng Wednesday, Ramaphosa’s application was dismissed and he was ordered to pay costs.
Justice Mogoeng said that in the majority judgment, it was held that it was not in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal.
“Not only because the issue is moot but also because the order sought to be appealed against is interlocutory in character,” he said.
This was further explained in the full judgment, where it stated that the interlocutory nature of the order and its mootness created a force that was “fatal” to the prospects of the court exercising its discretion in the president’s favour.
“Here, the main application to which the interlocutory order owes its life, has been withdrawn and it is in the main application that the reviewability of the president’s decision and the merits of the application would have been decided,” the Chief Justice said, adding that interlocutory orders were ordinarily not appealable, even when the main application was not withdrawn.
“This is not a case where the interests of justice require that we exercise our discretion to decide a moot issue.”
The judgment stated, though, that in the future, when the president’s decision to appoint or dismiss is questioned, the matter would be confronted and challenged properly and solid guidance will be provided by the Constitutional Court.
The Presidency is yet to respond to the Constitutional Court judgement.
Additional reporting by News24