Sakeliga initiates process to have Dlamini-Zuma found guilty of contempt of court


Dr Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, remains in contempt of a court order directing her to submit to Sakeliga several records concerning her 2020 state of disaster decisions. As a result, Sakeliga has now started a process to have the minister declared guilty of contempt of court.

In terms of an order obtained by Sakeliga on 9 November 2022, Dlamini-Zuma should have submitted to Sakeliga by 22 December 2022 a variety of records she had relied on when declaring the national state of disaster in March 2020 and subsequently extending it several times. This she has not done. Instead the State Attorney, on behalf of Dlamini-Zuma, submitted records concerning isolated decisions that are already available in the public domain. Sakeliga subsequently set an extended due date, 6 January 2023, for record delivery.

In response to the extension, the State Attorney delivered to the offices of our attorneys boxes of files – approximately 3 800 pages – consisting exclusively of documents of public participation and research documents relating to the April 2020 ban on the sale and distribution of tobacco. The 3 800 pages have been directly lifted from court files in a previous matter concerning the ban on tobacco, in which the Minister was a respondent.

No minutes of meetings, interdepartmental correspondence and draft regulations have been delivered to Sakeliga.

Sakeliga has now demanded that the state attorney produces, by 11 January, a satisfactory explanation of Dlamini-Zuma’s failure to submit the records. This step initiates a thorough process that must be followed to have a person declared guilty of contempt of court. The next step is likely to be a court application. While it is already clear that Dlamini-Zuma is attempting to obstruct Sakeliga and defying the court, it is a procedural requirement that her contempt should be proven in a further distinct court application. In this way the Minister can be compelled either to disclose the records or to face imprisonment.

Sakeliga remains committed to checking the power of state officials. While Dlamini-Zuma took her decisions largely or completely with the support of President Cyril Ramaphosa and while it was mostly Ramaphosa responsible for late-night lockdown announcements, Dlamini-Zuma is the focus of this application because she as Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was legally responsible for the decisions. She therefore is the appropriate address for a request for information and a subsequent court order. The information that Sakeliga is now per court order entitled to, will shed light on decisions made by Dlamini-Zuma and the government that caused enormous damage through unprecedented and arbitrary dictates and restrictions for more than two years.

Sakeliga express the hope that the court order we have already obtained and any resultant contempt applications will enable members of the public to hold the state accountable for harmful decisions of the past and to fend off similar government conduct in the future.