Judgment reserved in EFF’s application to have CR17 financial documents unsealed

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The Pretoria High Court has reserved judgment in the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF)  application to have the financial documents and statements of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 African National Congress (ANC)  presidential campaign, also known as CR17, unsealed.  The Pretoria High Court sealed the documents in August 2019.

The financial documents under scrutiny were incorporated in a report compiled by the Public Protector on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC presidential campaign funding.  The Public Protector requested the documents from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) which was established to investigate money laundering and the finance of terrorist activities.

The documents were sealed after it became apparent the Public Protector allegedly did not filter out information that was not relevant to her investigation. The Financial Intelligence Centre told the High Court that even if the financial documents are unsealed they will remain confidential because they were sourced through the FIC. Advocate Les Morison, on behalf of the FIC, says the FIC Act protects any information gathered by the centre.

“ In our submission, my lord, we say if you haven’t attacked the Act, the confidentiality remains intact. And that is the difficulty that is faced by the EFF in this matter. They have not attacked the FIC Act, they have not dealt with sections 40 and 41 of the FIC Act which renders these documents confidential, and absent of an attack on the Act there would be no basis to commit the information the Act covers, namely information obtained by the Financial Intelligence Centre, to be rendered open to scrutiny.”

Advocate Wim Trengove for the CR17 campaign and President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier told the court the EFF’s legal team did have access to the documents but did not make use of the opportunity.  However, the EFF’s Advocate, Ishmael Semenya, says it is in the public interest that the documents become available in the public domain and not just to legal teams.

“ At the level of public interest, when your lordship is doing the weigh-up count more, than just a mere assertion of the individuals that are mentioned in the envelope. One would imagine for what the CR17 stands for and for what the donors wanted to do for the country, it is not something embarrassing. So it would not put them and threaten the inner sanctum to which section 14 of the Constitution seeks to protect. ”

Semenya says the public interest must, in this case, carry more weight than the undertaking the CR17 campaign gave to donors to keep their information confidential.

“I will reserve judgment in the matter and hand down judgment in due course. I must thank all the council for the very useful discourse that we have. It certainly is of great public interest,” says Judge Cassim Sardiwalla.