Investigations, natural justice and reviewability: Msiza v Motau NO & another

Author: D M Pretorius

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Bowmans, Johannesburg
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 138 Issue 1, p. 20-39


The case of Msiza v Motau NO & another 2020 (6) SA 604 (GP) dealt with a report prepared by the first respondent pursuant to an investigation into the VBS Bank looting scandal. The investigation was conducted on behalf of the second respondent, the Prudential Authority. The applicant applied for, and was granted, an order reviewing and setting aside aspects of the report that reflected adversely on him. This was because the first respondent had not afforded the applicant an opportunity to be heard before he wrote the report and submitted it to the second respondent. As such, the case raised questions about the applicability of the right to procedural fairness in investigative proceedings and about the reviewability of reports produced by investigators. This note explores whether (and, if so, in what circumstances) investigations conducted by or on behalf of public bodies constitute administrative action that must be performed in accordance with the audi alteram partem rule. It concludes that the reasoning for the court’s view (that it is incumbent on an investigator who should foresee that his findings will have adverse consequences for another person to hear that person before making such findings) lacked depth and nuance. In determining whether there is a right to be heard in an investigative context, due attention should be given to the applicable statutory framework, the powers of the investigator, the potential impact on affected persons, and relevant precedent.