The president does not have to pay for court action lodged against him to say what he planned to do about pardons, the Constitutional Court ruled yesterday .
On September 30 last year, Mqabukeni Chonco and a group of 384 people - mostly Inkatha Freedom Party members - successfully sought a court order which forced the president to process their pardon applications, lodged with the Department of Justice as far back as 2003.
In that order, the justice minister and the president came under fire from the court, saying the long wait was "unacceptable".
In October, nine days after the judgment, the applicants filed their first papers in a follow-up application, saying that the president was now the respondent, and that there had been another delay in processing the pardons.
The president replied in December and said he intended to finalise the pardons by the end of January 2010.
The group, however, decided to proceed with the matter, and a date in the Constitutional Court was set down for February.
When the matter was heard, the president submitted an affidavit with an update to say that he had considered 384 applications and had rejected 230.
So, with the update on the pardons process dealt with, the litigants focused on getting the court to order that the president pay the costs of that application.
Reading the judgment, Judge Sisi Khampepe said the applicants had felt that litigation was their only real "bargaining chip" to force him to move forward with the applications.
"The past conduct of the Presidency gives some credence to this argument," Judge Khampepe said.
"Throughout the history of this matter, it would seem that the Presidency has taken action only in response to the litigation."
While the court did not want to take away the rights to litigate to enforce a right, the applicants had been too hasty, Judge Khampepe said, and then made the final order, that there would be no costs awarded. - Sapa