Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa misled Parliament over a R500, 000 Bosasa donation. The president insists Mkhwebane’s probe was flawed and outside her jurisdiction. Expectation of Mkhwebane’s report was to deal with a single donation to Ramaphosa’s campaign for election as ANC president at the party’s 2017 Nasrec elective congress. When Mkhwebane released her report, she revealed that she investigated the whole CR17 campaign, stretching back to almost a year before Watson’s donation.
Mail and Guardian is of the opinion that there is much at stake for both Ramaphosa and Mkhwebane. Already the sheer amount of millions raised to get Ramaphosa and his slate into power has left South Africans open-mouthed. The actual number of millions remains unclear — Ramaphosa said Mkhwebane double counted a number of times — but it is a lot. If Mkhwebane succeeds in persuading the court that Ramaphosa has a duty to disclose the identity of all his donors and the amount of their donations, it would be a gift to Ramaphosa’s critics inside the ANC and to opposition parties.
For Mkhwebane, there is even more at stake. From the legislature, she is facing an impeachment process. From the judiciary, she has had an even more torrid time. She has not lost every case, but she has lost most of them. Worse than the losses have been the scathing rebukes she has received from the courts — including the highest court, which has questioned her integrity and honesty. Then there have been the revelations by former employees, shoring up the view that the public protector, now more powerful than ever after the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla judgment, has been “weaponised” to undermine Ramaphosa’s government.
The dispute — polite at first — has become increasingly bitter. In heads of argument, her counsel Muzi Sikhakhane SC said Ramaphosa’s application “is an attempt to create a sense of impunity for the president and to assert that he is above the applicable law”.
Ramaphosa’s team has not minced words either. In heads of argument, Wim Trengove SC said: “Her unlawful investigation of all the donations was malicious. [Her] finding on the suspicion of money laundering was entirely baseless; it reinforced the inference of a reckless determination to malign the president.”
Ramaphosa’s team will argue that the public protector’s investigation into the CR17 campaign was unlawful because it waded into areas outside her jurisdiction. A campaign for internal political party elections does not fall into the remit of the public protector who is confined to investigating conduct related to state affairs or public administration, said Trengove in his written argument.
Neither the parliamentary code for MPs nor the Executive Ethics Act required Ramaphosa to disclose the donations, he said. On this he is supported by the speaker of the national assembly.
Mkhwebane’s team will argue that the public protector does have jurisdiction because the Constitution and the executive ethics code empowers her to investigate whether a person has exposed themselves to a risk of a conflict of interest — between their official duties and their private interest. The code for MPs required that Ramaphosa disclose any “benefit of a material nature”, said Sikhakhane.
“The donations were for the advancement of his own individual political career. The ANC has not confirmed his contention that CR17 was a party programme for renewal,” said Sikhakhane.
Investigative journalist unit AmaBhungane has also entered the fray — on a narrow legal issue. It will argue that, if the court finds there was no duty to disclose the donations under the executive ethics code, the code is unconstitutional and, going forward, such disclosures must be made.
The court will also hear argument on whether Ramaphosa deliberately misled Parliament and whether there is rationality in Mkhwebane’s observation — she said in her report that it was not a finding as such — that there was “merit” in a suspicion of money laundering.
The case has also drawn in national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi. Mkhwebane’s direction that the national director of public prosecutions investigate whether there was money laundering and then report back to her with an implementation plan for her approval prompted Batohi to enter the case.
In heads of argument, Batohi’s counsel, Timothy Bruinders SC, says: “Powers of direction and monitoring over the NPA by the PP [public protector] would blur the constitutional distinction between the two constitutional institutions.”
The money-laundering observation was one of the most eye-popping aspects of Mkhwebane’s report and, for some weeks, there was intense speculation about where Mkhwebane had accessed the bank records of Ramaphosa’s campaign. This was because it was clear from her report that she did not successfully manage to subpoena all the banks.
She answered that the records came from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), even putting its report into the (sealed) court record. This has meant that the FIC, which normally operates in closely guarded confidentiality, has entered into the court case as well.
After questions by the president’s lawyers about why the FIC examined so many of the donations and over the period it did, the FIC explained that it was simply “following the money” of the Bosasa donation — as per global best practice. However the FIC also said that it could find no evidence of money laundering, because it could not establish a “predicate offence”. A “predicate offence” refers to the suspected crime from which the laundered money was sourced.
This was qualified though — the FIC said it did not have investigative powers to investigate whether there was such a predicate offence. However, it seems that Mkhwebane’s team did not investigate further either, rather giving this job to the NPA.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said President Cyril Ramaphosa misled Parliament over a R500, 000 Bosasa donation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his family never benefitted financially from his CR17 ANC presidential campaign. This is according to Ramaphosa’s lawyers. They argued in court that Ramaphosa was, in fact, a donor himself contributing nearly R40 million to the campaign. Ramaphosa approached the High Court in Pretoria to review and set aside Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s CR17 Bosasa Report released in July last year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is challenging Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on his ANC election campaign.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office on Wednesday confirmed he had received a notice from Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane informing him that he had been implicated in her investigation into the R500 000 his campaign received from Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson. In terms of the section 7(9) notice, issued in terms of the Public Protector Act, Ramaphosa has 10 days to respond to Mkhwebane’s report.
Ramaphosa – Bosasa and R500 000
A group of politicians, campaign managers and strategists earned millions for their roles in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s successful ANC presidential campaign, with some having been on the CR17 payroll for the 12 months leading up to the party’s Nasrec conference.
Leaked emails from ANC presidential campaign reveal the names of some of his potential donors and undermine the defence that Ramaphosa was kept at arm’s length of his funders. News24 stated they are in possession of several emails from inside the Ramaphosa campaign that have been circulated among his political opponents and by anti-Ramaphosa accounts on Twitter in recent days.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane delivered a mortal blow to the reformist President Cyril Ramaphosa on 19 July 2019 The findings against him are the very worst he could have expected. Not only did he “deliberately” mislead Parliament about the paltry R500 000 donation to his campaign by Bosasa’s Gavin Watson, but in doing so he violated the Constitution, failed to declare donations and the National Prosecuting Authority must investigate allegations of money-laundering, she found.