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  • INTHELABOURCOURTOFSOUTHAFRICA

    HELDATDURBAN

    CASENO:D38/08

    REPORTABLE

    Heard:7February2008

    Delivered:18February2008Revised:19February2008

    Inthematterbetween:

    NATIONALTEACHERSUNIONAPPLICANT

    and

    THESUPERINTENDENTGENERAL:DEPARTMENT

    OFEDUCATION&CULTURE,KWAZULUNATAL1stRESPONDENT

    THEMECFOREDUCATION&CULTURE,

    KWAZULUNATAL2ndRESPONDENT

    JUDGMENT

    PILLAYD,J

    Introduction

  • 1 Anelementaryruleofpracticeisthatanapplicantmustsatisfythecourt

    hearing its application that it has complied with all the jurisdictional

    requirements.Whenraisingmatterswhichthecourthasnotconsidered

    before,practitionershaveaprofessionalandethicaldutytotheirclients

    andtothecourttoresearchthejurisdictionalquestionsandraisethemup

    frontandpertinentlywiththecourt.Whentheyomittodosoandthecourt

    invitesthemtoaddressit,thatdutybecomesallthemorecompelling.As

    anapplicantbearstheonusofprovingthejurisdictionofthecourtatthe

    outset, its failure to respond competently to the courts invitation is a

    travestyofjustice.

    2 In this case, the Applicant trade union seeks to enforce its right to

    disclosureofinformationundertheConstitutionoftheRepublicofSouth

    AfricaAct108of1996andthePromotionofAccesstoInformationActNo

    2 of 2000 (PAIA) against the Department of Education KwaZuluNatal

    (DOE),representedbytheRespondents.TheApplicantdeniesthatsection

    16oftheLabourRelationsActNo66of1995(LRA)appliestothedispute.

    ThedisputearisesinthecontextoftheDOEfillinga1000officebased

    posts.

    3 TheLabourCourthasnotheardacaseintermsofPAIAbefore.Aswill

    emergefullybelow,counselforbothpartiesrespondedsoshoddilytotwo

    requestsfromthecourtforfurtherHeadsofArgumentthatthecourthas

    had to undertake its own research anddecide apublic interest matter

    withoutthebenefitcounselsconsideredopinions.

    4 Thecourthastodecidefirstly,whethertheApplicantacquirestherightof

    accesstoinformationfromtheConstitutiondirectwithoutanyregardtothe

    enablingstatutes that giveeffect to that right; secondly, whether it has

    2

  • jurisdiction to enforce rights under PAIA; thirdly, whether the Applicant

    complied with other jurisdictional requirements of PAIA; and fourthly,

    whethertheLabourCourthasjurisdictiontoadjudicateadisputeinterms

    ofsection16oftheLRA.

    Urgency

    5 TheRespondentsprefacedtheiroppositionwithachallengetotheurgency

    oftheapplication.TheycontendedthattheurgencywasoftheApplicants

    ownmakingbecauseon12June2007and27November2007,theFirst

    Respondent had refused to give all the information the Applicant

    requested,exceptthedetailsofthetimesandvenuesoftheshortlisting

    andinterviews.

    6 TheApplicantsubmittedthat theFirstRespondentorhisrepresentative

    hadagreedonthreeoccasionstogivetheinformationtotheApplicantor

    theiralliancepartnersinthebargainingcouncil,theCombinedTradeUnion

    SuidAfrikaanseOnderwyserunie(CTUSAOU).Thefirstwason7March

    20071.ThesecondwasatabilateralmeetingwithCTUSAOUon31July

    20072.ThethirdwasatanotherbilateralmeetingwithCTUSAOUon3

    November20073.

    7 Evidenceofthethirdoccasionemergedonlyinreply.AstheRespondents

    didnothaveafairopportunitytorespondtoit,thecourtdisregardsit.

    8 Followingthiscourtsjudgmentin NATUvDepartmentofEducationand

    1paragraph26ofthefoundingaffidavit2AnnexureHtoFoundingAffidavitp37ofBundle3AnnexureRtoReply

    3

  • Others4 delivered on 31 March 2006, the Applicant began requesting

    informationaboutthepanelistsappointedtoundertaketheshortlistingand

    interviewsofjobapplicants.Atameetingon7March2007,theGeneral

    Manager of the DOE, Mr G H Ngcobo, undertook to disclose certain

    informationtotheApplicants.TheFirstRespondentdeniesthattheDOE

    undertooktodiscloseanyinformationotherthanthetimesandvenuesof

    theshortlistingandinterviews. Inanyevent,untilearlyDecember2007,

    theDOEfailedtodiscloseeventhatinformation.

    9 On15May2007,theApplicantwrotetotheFirstRespondentitemisingthe

    informationitsoughtintermsofthePAIA.5 On12June2007,theFirst

    Respondentrefusedtodisclosetheinformationbut,atameetingon3July

    2007,heagreedtogiverelevantinformationbeforetheshortlistingbegan.

    Amonthandahalflateron18September2007andagainon3December

    2007theApplicantrepeateditsrequest.On5December2007theFirst

    Respondentreiterateditsstancethatitwouldnotdiscloseanyinformation

    other than the venues and times of the interviews. By letter dated 6

    December2007,theApplicantwhittleddownitsrequestforinformationto

    theCompositeScheduleofallshortlistingdates.On8January2008,the

    Applicants attorneys resurrected its request for information previously

    soughtintheApplicantslettersof15May2007and5December2007.

    TheApplicantlaunchedthisapplicationon2January2008.

    10 Asat5December2007theDOEhadstillnotinformedtheApplicantabout

    the details of the shortlisting and interviews. When it did get the

    information,somemembersoftheApplicanttriedtoattendtheshortlisting

    butfoundthatthevenuehadbeenchangedandtheycouldnot,atsucha

    4NATUvDepartmentofEducationandOthers(unreportedCaseNoD110/06)dated31March2006.5AnnexureEtotheFoundingAffidavitpg1321323ofbundle

    4

  • latestage,makefresharrangements.

    11 TheDOEcouldhaveavoidedinconveniencingtheApplicantandtimeously

    disclosedtheinformationwhichtheRespondentsconcededitwasobliged

    togivetheApplicant.

    12 However, the court agrees with the Respondents that if the Applicant

    believedithadanenforceablerightunderPAIAitshouldhavelaunchedan

    applicationintheordinarycourseassoonastheDOErefusedorfailedto

    supplytheinformation.

    13 TheApplicantwasawareasearlyas15May2007,ifnotbefore,thatthe

    FirstRespondenthadalreadyestablishedInterviewCommittees.TheDOE

    consistently refused to disclose all the information that the Applicant

    requested.ThebesteffortthattheApplicantmadetoenforceitsrightto

    disclosure was to raise the matter occasionally in correspondence and

    meetings.

    14 FromtheoutsettheApplicantrequesteddisclosureintermsofPAIAand

    not in terms of section 16 of the LRA for disclosure or launch this

    application in May, September or evenDecember 2007, if it genuinely

    believed that the information was indispensable to representing its

    membersinterests.TheApplicantwasspurredintoactiononlywhenthe

    DOEstartedtheshortlistingandinterviewsinmidDecember2007. The

    triggerforthisapplicationwasthereforenottheDOEsfailureorrefusalto

    disclose informationbuttheApplicants intentiontostaytheshortlisting

    and interviews. (discussed further below)This issue toowasno longer

    urgent as the Applicant wasaware that theshortlisting and interviews

    wereunderwaysinceatleast15May2007.

    5

  • 15 Theapplicationisthereforenoturgent.However,by7February2008the

    applicationwasripeforhearingaspleadingshadclosed.Havingsubmitted

    briefHeadsofArgumentfromtheBar,thepartieswerereadytoarguethe

    matteronthemerits.Intheinterestsofresolvingthedisputeexpeditiously

    andsubstantivelythecourtheardthematteronthemerits.

    ApplicantsCase

    16 TheApplicantrequestsinformationfromtheRespondentsaboutpanelists

    and their appointment to shortlist and interview educators to fill 1000

    vacant posts in the DOE. It claims the informationon thebasis of the

    constitutionalrightofaccesstoanyinformationheldbythestateandPAIA

    inordertoexerciseorprotecttherightsofitsmemberstofairappointment

    processes.

    17 TheApplicant denies that its case is basedon theallegedbiasof the

    Respondent in favour of the South AfricanDemocratic TeachersUnion

    (SADTU)anditspoliticalally, theAfricanNationalCongress(ANC),the

    rulingpartyingovernment.

    RespondentsCase

    18 The Respondents resist the application firstly, on the ground that the

    Applicantdoesnotmakeouta primafacie casethatthenondisclosure

    breached,weakenedorrenderedunenforceableitsoritsmembersrights.

    Secondly,astheApplicantdoesnotallegethatanyofitsmembersapplied

    fortheposts,itdoesnothaveaninterestinhowtheyarefilled.Hence,the

    6

  • disclosureoftheinformationwillbepurelyacademic.

    19 Thirdly,theApplicantlaunchedtheapplicationbecauseitsuspectsthatthe

    Respondentsarebiased in favour of candidateswith whomtheymake

    commoncausebecauseoftheirpolitical andtradeunionaffiliations. Its

    suspicions do not establish that its or its members rights to a fair

    administrativeprocessisthreatened,breachedorrenderedunenforceable.

    20 Fourthly,theApplicanthasalternativeprocessesiftheappointmentsare

    irregular; it may challenge the appointments when they are eventually

    made.

    21 Fifthly, the Respondents reasonably apprehend that premature public

    accesstodetailedsensitiveinformationaboutpanelistswillunderminethe

    fairnessand integrityof theprocess.TheRespondents concern is that

    panelists can be bribed, corrupted or intimidated if their identities are

    knowntojobapplicantsbecauseitisnotuncommoninoursocietyforjob

    seekerstoresorttolessthenproperavenuestosecureemployment.

    22 Sixthly, the authority to appoint panelists arises from the collective

    agreement. The collective agreement entrusts the First Respondent to

    appointthepanelists.ItimposesnoconstraintsontheFirstRespondent

    exercising his power to appoint the panelists. The only constraints are

    thos

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