Global Freedom of Expression

Clutchco (Pty) Ltd v. Davis

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Public Documents
  • Date of Decision
    March 24, 2005
  • Outcome
    Access to Information Denied
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    South Africa, Africa
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Administrative Law, Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information
  • Tags
    Budget Information, Private entities, Scope of Information Covered

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Supreme Court of Appeal for South Africa held that the Constitution and Access to Information Act allow for access to information held by private parties when reasonably required; the petitioner shareholder’s need for corporate documents was insufficiently pressing in this case.

This analysis was contributed by


Andrew Davis, who held 30% of the shares of Clutchco, a family business controlled by his father, made a request for information regarding the company’s finances after being removed as a director of the company. Shareholders are not entitled to this information under the Companies Act, and Davis made the request under Section 50 of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), which allows for access to the information of private bodies if “that record is required for the exercise or protection of any right”. That act was itself promulgated in response to Section 32(1) of the Constitution, that creates a right of access to “information held by another person…that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights”.

Davis asserted that he desired the records due to his suspicion that not all the company’s transactions were reflected in its financial statements and that he needed the information to establish the value of his shares. Clutcho refused to provide the information, claiming that Davis only desired the records to harm the company.

Decision Overview

The Court recognized the right to private documents under both the Constitution and PAIA but also found that it was subject to limits in that the information must be “required for the exercise or protection of any…rights”. After examining relevant case-law, the Court determined “required” in this context to refer to something that is “reasonably required”, a standard less than that of necessity (para. 13).

In this particular case, the Court found that the Companies Act provides for numerous mechanisms to protect shareholders other than allowing access to financial records, including the requirement that auditors have access to the information, allowing them to make findings as part of their reports. Therefore, a more substantial foundation than that advanced by Davis, who failed to specifically criticize the existing auditors or seek the advice of an experienced accountant, was required for him to receive access to the records in this case.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

This decision restricts public information and potentially freedom of expression.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

The decision was cited in:

Official Case Documents


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