The case was brought to the court by The South African based Mail and Guardian newspaper which had been fighting for the 2002 election report commissioned by the then South African President Thabo Mbeki to be made public. Mbeki at the time sent Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke and Constitutional Court Justice Sisi Khampepe to obtain information on constitutional and legal problems in Zimbabwe at the time of its 2002 elections.
The judges collected information from Zimbabwean political parties, security arms and civic society.
The Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled that the newspaper must be allowed access the report.
The outcome of the elections was heavily contested by both the international community and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC charged that the election was rigged and violence and intimidation rendered it flawed.
The newspaper requested the report in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
The South African government had appealed against an earlier ruling to have the report made public. The South African government said the report was aimed at formulating policy on Zimbabwe.
The MDC party welcomed the ruling on Wednesday.
“It’s good news. While off course it’s not our duty to interfere with South African internal matters, as the Movement for Democratic Change we have made it clear that we would want to have access to that report. It’s a matter of public interest and it comes at a time when we are grappling with violence. We would want to know what happened that time because it will also help us prepare for the next elections,” said Chamisa.
The run-up to the 2002 poll was marred by political violence and gross human rights abuses including the murder of Tsvangirai’s supporters, while there were massive irregularities on voting day in Harare and major cities were the opposition enjoyed the most support.
Among some of the irregularities was the reduction in the number polling stations in these major cities as well as deliberate slowing down of voting to frustrate urban voters.
Despite all these glaring shortcomings Mbeki’s government and SADC went on to declare the election free and fair.