Lockdown Transparency: Sakeliga files application for contempt against COGTA minister


Sakeliga has brought a high court application to have the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) 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 lockdown decisions made behind closed doors in 2020.

If Sakeliga succeeds in this contempt application, the current minister, Ms 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 Ms Nkadimeng on Friday.

Sakeliga 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. 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drastic and socioeconomically damaging interventions on the basis of untransparent processes, opaque rationale, and unpublished assessments of broad societal consequences.

In 2020, it was Dr Dlamini-Zuma, as minister of COGTA, who approved and took the decisions on Covid disaster regulations. At the end of that year, Sakeliga submitted a PAIA request for records of decision-making about the rolling state of disaster declarations.  She refused Sakeliga’s request. When Sakeliga obtained a court order in November 2022 to force disclosure, she failed to comply. Then, in February 2023, before a contempt of court application against her could be finalised, Dr Dlamini-Zuma was replaced as COGTA minister by Ms Nkadimeng, the current minister.

Sakeliga's Mission: Building Scalable Solutions to State Failure

The change in minister caused the proceedings to be delayed through 2023, because of the necessity to afford the current minister an opportunity to comply. However, Ms Nkadimeng failed to make use of this opportunity and has now also emerged into contempt of the November 2022 order. She has, therefore, been joined as the key respondent to our contempt application, both in her official and personal capacity. If she does not comply, she will be liable to face the serious court sanctions Dr Dlamini-Zuma would have faced.

After three years Sakeliga’s longest battle yet to obtain records from the state under PAIA moves into its next important phase. 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 seek to finalise the matter and provide clarity on the deliberative and decision-making processes prior to the imposition of harmful and irrational policies that led to millions of job losses, business closures, and wealth-destruction.

While the COGTA minister has handed over some records related to the PAIA request since a court order in favour of Sakeliga 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.

The application was brought in the Pretoria High Court.

Click here to view a complete list of the records that Sakeliga requested in 2020.