Manuel tracks his ‘Gupta spies’

For­mer fi­nance min­is­ter one step closer to find­ing out who’s been pry­ing into his and his wife’s move­ments

Pretoria News Weekend - - METRO - ZELDA VEN­TER zelda.ven­[email protected]

FOR­MER fi­nance min­is­ter Trevor Manuel is one step closer to get­ting an­swers on who ob­tained and dis­closed per­sonal in­for­ma­tion on him.

The High Court in Pretoria this week or­dered that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Gupta-owned com­pany Sa­hara Com­put­ers and its for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ashu Chawla had to avail them­selves to de­liver oral ev­i­dence in court on whether they have, or ever had, any records in their pos­ses­sion re­gard­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and sur­veil­lance of Manuel and his wife, Maria Ramos.

They must also sub­ject them­selves to cross-ex­am­i­na­tion in this re­gard, Judge Sharise Weiner or­dered.

Manuel turned to court to ob­tain an­swers, be­cause both Chawla and Sa­hara de­nied that they had any records in their pos­ses­sion con­tain­ing Manuel’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.

The judge or­dered that a date had to be ar­ranged with the reg­is­trar of the court for the hear­ing of the oral ev­i­dence.

Manuel ap­plied for ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion in terms of the Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

He told the court he be­lieved his per­sonal in­for­ma­tion had been un­law­fully ob­tained and dis­closed and he had been sub­jected to un­law­ful sur­veil­lance.

This be­lief arose from a news­pa­per re­port ti­tled “#Gup­taleaks: Gup­tas spied on Manuel, Malema and bank bosses.”

It was claimed in the re­port that emails and doc­u­ments re­vealed the Gupta fam­ily had spied on var­i­ous prom­i­nent South Africans, in­clud­ing Manuel and Ramos.

It was also claimed that Chawla was at the cen­tre of these emails and he had au­tho­rised a spread­sheet set­ting out de­tailed in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing flights which Manuel and Ramos had taken.

It was fur­ther claimed that Chawla was in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with moles within the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs who emailed Manuel’s CV to Tony Gupta. It was ap­par­ently also for­warded by Chawla to an ad­viser of for­mer home af­fairs min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba.

Manuel said it was not clear who was re­spon­si­ble for this un­law­ful con­duct. He thus re­quested ac­cess to cer­tain records to shed more light on this to pro­tect his right to pri­vacy.

Sa­hara and Chawla de­nied him ac­cess to their records and Manuel at first asked the court to set aside these re­fusals. He, how­ever, later changed his ap­pli­ca­tion and asked the court that these par­ties be called to the wit­ness stand to an­swer ques­tions on these is­sues.

Both re­spon­dents told the court that the records sought by Manuel did not ex­ist and if they did, they did not have them.

Manuel, in turn, said while he could not for a fact say they had the records, he felt they were hid­ing some­thing and lacked can­dour. He thus wanted them to be ques­tioned in court on these is­sues.

In his an­swer­ing af­fi­davit, Chawla de­nied these al­le­ga­tions. The judge, said that nei­ther Chawla nor Sa­hara had chal­lenged the facts in the news re­port, nor fol­lowed it up with any le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

Manuel’s at­tor­neys wrote let­ters to both in July last year in which Manuel’s con­cerns for his per­sonal safety and se­cu­rity due to the un­law­ful sur­veil­lance and pos­ses­sion of his per­sonal in­for­ma­tion was voiced. He re­quested the rel­e­vant doc­u­ments, but they said they did not have them.

Manuel agreed that he might have var­i­ous le­gal av­enues open to him, such as to sue for dam­ages for the vi­o­la­tion of his right to pri­vacy. But, he added, with­out the records he won’t know who to sue.

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