The presidency’s appeal of a case brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) while Jacob Zuma was president has been dismissed with costs, meaning President Cyril Ramaphosa must pay costs relating to Zuma’s firing of then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas.
This follows the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissing the Presidency’s bid to have the court overturn a ruling calling for records relating to the 2017 late-night cabinet shuffle resulting in Gordhan and Jonas’ dismissal to be released.
While Ramaphosa did withdraw the appeal, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng ruled that it was still in the public interest to clarify the president’s powers, essentially upholding a High Court judgment ordering Zuma to give reasons for his firing of the two ministers.
Mogoeng authored and delivered the judgment, ruling that it was not in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal, since the president anyway withdrew the application, making it moot.
The chief justice ruled it was not in the interests of justice to grant an appeal against an interlocutory order from the high court.
The judgment relates to a 2017 high court judgment based on a case brought by DA, who wanted reasons for the sacking of the two ministers.
The constitution previously had essentially given the presidency absolute power to hire and fire, which is now no longer the case following this judgment.
Ramaphosa was among those who wanted clarity on the extent of the president’s powers, and specifically whether the president should have to give a reason for firing someone.
Zuma described the 2017 high court judgment an abuse of court processes, arguing that he exercised his powers in terms of Section 91 (2) of the Constitution, which gave him the power to choose his executive.
He said that changing his cabinet was an executive decision, deserving of protection from disclosure.
In 2017, the high court gave Zuma five working days to disclose his reasons for axing the two ministers in the reshuffle.
This included the records of the proceedings leading to his decision as well as any other documents, correspondence, memoranda, or advice he had received and which led to the controversial decision.