The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) has welcomed the decision by the Gauteng High Court, in which it declined to give Sakeliga the relief it sought on the lawfulness of the Companies and Intellectual Commission (CIPC) certificates issued to companies permitted to render essential services during the first phase of the lockdown.
Sakeliga approached the court seeking an order declaring that the CIPC had no authority to issue the essential services certificates to companies and close corporations permitted to operate during the lockdown.
In the judgment, the court remarked that giving such relief would be “inappropriate”.
During the lockdown, the CIPC established an online registration platform for companies, which were permitted to operate as essential service businesses in terms of the regulations published by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The service was established as a voluntary service for companies who wished to log their details with government over the period. The platform, managed through the Bizportal, became popular with companies during the lockdown, with nearly 500 000 company registrations over the period.
Given that it was a voluntary, self-certification service to build a database of companies, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel decided not to issue a direction that would have required companies to register.
The government’s lawyers pointed out prior to the matter being heard by the court that the service was voluntary, but Sakeliga persisted with its application.
During the hearing, which took place on the day that the Alert Level 3 Regulations were published, government’s legal representatives pointed out that the issuance of certificates would not continue under Alert Level 3, as the concept of essential services would no longer apply.
The court characterised Sakeliga’s contention that the certificates may be applied in future as “mere speculation”.
The court, therefore, declined to make an order in favour of Sakeliga, ruling that “it would be inappropriate to make any finding in respect of the declaratory relief directed at the CIPC issue”.
It further declined to make a cost order on the matter.