Did public protector have the power to probe Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign? ConCourt to hand down judgment
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JOHANNESBURG: It's yet another big day at the Constitutional Court on Thursday, as Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane will find out if her challenge to the North Gauteng High Court ruling reviewing and setting aside her decision to investigate and report on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign will succeed.
The ConCourt will deliver its judgment in Mkhwebane’s appeal of the ruling, by the full bench of the high court – Judge-President Dunstan Mlambo, Judges Keoagile Matojane and Raylene Keightley.
In March last year, the judges declared Mkhwebane’s decision to investigate and report on Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency invalid, and reviewed and set it aside.
Her findings and remedial action were also reviewed, declared invalid, and set aside.
Mkhwebane’s office was also ordered to pay Ramaphosa and National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise’s legal costs.
The apex court heard arguments in the matter in November last year and Mkhwebane argued that she was asked to investigate a complaint by former DA leader Mmusi Maimane, about R500 000 paid to the president’s son Andile Ramaphosa, by late Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson.
Maimane asked Ramaphosa, in the National Assembly, in 2018, about the payment and the President confirmed he was aware of it and that it was for services rendered by his son’s consultancy.
However, Ramaphosa changed his tune a few days later, revealing in a letter to Modise that the R500 000 was in fact a donation to his CR17 campaign to be elected as ANC leader.
Unhappy with Ramaphosa’s answers, Maimane asked Mkhwebane to probe the matter and whether he misled Parliament in his first reply.
The EFF also lodged its complaint for the public protector to investigate whether Ramaphosa misled Parliament – in violation of the Executive Ethics Code.
In her investigation, Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National Assembly and that he acted improperly and in violation of the provisions of the code.
She also found that Ramaphosa violated the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure, which exposed him to a situation involving the risk of a conflict between his official duties and private interests, or used his position to enrich himself and his son through businesses owned by Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations.
Mkhwebane said, in the allegation, that there is an improper relationship between Ramaphosa and his family, on the one side, and Bosasa, on the other. Due to the nature of the R500 000 payment passing through several intermediaries, instead of a straightforward donation to the CR17 campaign, a suspicion of money laundering has merit.
She ordered Modise to refer the matter to Parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members’ interests for consideration in terms of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure, consider, within her discretion, whether there should be deliberations on the issues relating to the public protector’s observations.
Modise was also required to demand publication of all donations received by Ramaphosa, as he was bound to declare such financial interests at the time when he was his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s deputy, as required by the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure.
Mkhwebane ordered National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi to take note of her observations and recommendations, and conduct further investigation into the issue of money laundering, and asked national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole to investigate Watson’s criminal conduct, as to whether he lied under oath.
Ramaphosa and Modise were successful at the High Court in overturning Mkhwebane’s report.