EFF vs Ramaphosa: High court bid to unseal CR17 campaign records

A May 2019 file photo of President Cyril Ramaphosa and EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

A May 2019 file photo of President Cyril Ramaphosa and EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 16, 2021


Cape Town – The North Gauteng High Court is due to hear a case today in which EFF leader Julius Malema is applying to unseal the CR17 bank statements.

The EFF believes public interest should outweigh the privacy rights of donors, arguing South Africans have the right to know who funded Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign and whether his donors are benefiting from state contracts. There have also been unsubstantiated claims of CR17 paying bribes to judges.

Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Jacob Zuma, has questioned why he refuses to disclose who donated to him. In a letter last month, Zuma said: ’’We sit with some judges who sealed those records simply because such records may reveal that some of them, while presiding in our courts, have had their hands filled with the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.’’

The EFF lodged the application soon after the court agreed to seal details of the CR17 funders in August 2019, following an application made by Ramaphosa.

The EFF argues in court papers: "Holding politicians, especially those in government, accountable for who they get money from, and who they pay that money to, is crucial in ensuring that politicians and the wider political establishment remain transparent, open and accountable.

"Unwarranted secrecy in the courts undermines the public's faith in the justice system. Secrecy perverts the system, and allows a public forum to become a tool for keeping wrongdoing secret."

While Ramaphosa is not actively involved in the case, the CR17 fund-raising committee and the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) are opposing the release of the bank records.

Ramaphosa's campaign fundraising committee maintain the EFF's court bid to unseal CR17 bank records is ’’a misguided abuse of the court process", driven by the "unlawful conduct" of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who is accused of seeking to publicly disclose a confidential FIC report.

The FIC had provided Mkhwebane with a detailed analysis report on all the CR17 bank accounts in March 2019, as part of her discredited probe into Ramaphosa's campaign finances, which was meant to be used for ’’intelligence purposes only".

"The EFF is simply doing the Public Protector's bidding, there is no public interest that the EFF seeks to serve," the CR17 committee argues in its heads of argument.

"It is not in the interests of justice to allow the EFF to finish the unlawful crusade started by the Public Protector...

"First, she (Mkhwebane) openly defied the FIC's direction in the cover letter to the FIC report. Second, she manipulated the disclosure of the Rule 53 record in an attempt to ensure that it was publicly disclosed. All of this was in violation of the FIC Act.’’

Section 40 (read with section 41) of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act prohibits any person from disclosing information held by or obtained from the centre. However, section 41 contains important exceptions that allow disclosure of information obtained from the FIC “for the purpose of legal proceedings, including any proceedings before a judge in chambers; or in terms of an order of court”.

The CR17 committee argues that the National Assembly is the "primary institution" through which the public holds the president to account.

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