ConCourt rules on President's powers regarding ministers

The Constitutional Court will rule whether the President should disclose the reasons for hiring and firing Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Courtesy #DStv403

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court has dismissed The Presidency's appeal against a case regarding the hiring and firing of cabinet ministers, saying the matter is now moot. 

WATCH: Ramaphosa announces changes to Cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa wanted the highest court in the land to provide clarity on whether he "is under a legal obligation to disclose reasons for and the record of the proceedings relating to the dismissal of ministers and deputy ministers".

It follows a 2017 North Gauteng High Court ruling, ordering that records of decisions made by the executive be made available if they are taken on review.

The court had ordered former President Jacob Zuma to disclose reasons for firing then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas.

Shortly after the cabinet reshuffle, the Democratic Alliance launched an application to review and set aside Zuma's decision. The party also wanted the reasons for the dismissals made public. 

Zuma appealed the high court order with the Supreme Court of Appeal, but resigned before the matter was concluded, and the case was withdrawn from court. 

Zuma, however said the High Court had "extended the scope of rule 53 (of the Uniform Rules of Court) to executive actions which amounted to a usurpation of the powers of the Rules Board".

President Cyril Ramaphosa approached the Constitutional Court to get clarity on the court's ability to step in when he makes executive decisions.

On Wednesday, The Constitutional Court ruled that it is not in the interests of justice to grant leave to appeal (by the DA) because the matter was moot. 

The court however agreed that it is in the interests of justice to interpret rule 53 of the Uniform Rules of Court for guidance in future cases. 

"...a judgment of this court would have a practical effect on the president an any other party who wishes to review an executive decision.

"The second judgment further holds that this matter is of great importance to the public not only because it it involves a challenge to the appointment or dismissal from cabinet that governs the country, but also for the need to clarify procedural rights of a party who wishes to impugn these types of decisions".

The court said the interpretation of Rule 53 requires a look at the language of the rule, the context in which the rule appears, its purpose and material known to the Chief Justice in 1965 when the rules were made".

It said the rule does not apply to the review of decisions to appoint or dismiss ministers from cabinet.