Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit back at his detractors, saying individuals involved in his CR17 presidential campaign owe no one an apology for raising funds.
“If there are members of the executive, they did (this fundraising) as individual party members and were exercising their democratic and constitutional rights. They owe no apology for what they did,” Ramaphosa said in his oral reply session in Parliament on Thursday.
He was responding to revelations of how high-profile individuals had allegedly received handsome payouts following his campaign ahead of the ANC elective conference in 2017.
A confident and seemingly unfazed Ramaphosa used the oral reply session to also pour cold water on suggestions that dubious activities surrounded his campaign, saying: “In its funding, there was no wrongdoing, no criminality and no abuse of public funds or resources.”
At the time he was responding to a question by EFF leader Julius Malema.
Malema quizzed Ramaphosa on the ministers and staff in the Presidency involved in fundraising as well as potential funders the president allegedly met.
Ramaphosa insisted that all those who contributed to CR17, including donors and himself, did so out of “concern for the future of the country”.
He pointed out that if there was any evidence of wrongdoing in the CR17 campaign against the country's laws, he would be willing to act without any doubt.
“Was there any taxpayers' money (used)? There was no taxpayers' (money) utilised in the CR17 campaign. I can state it that if it is found to be so, we will take action,” he said in response to a question posed by ANC MP Tandi Mahambehlala.
Ramaphosa noted that since the release of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report last month into the R500 000 donation from Bosasa, there was suddenly wide interest in the funding and operations of his campaign and that others used leaked information for sinister agendas.
“As I indicated already, the public protector report is under judicial review. Our independent courts will make a determination in this regard,” he said.
The president said the report had sparked a debate on the issue of political funding which he said was needed in the country, adding he has since initiated a discussion within the ANC, which currently has no rules and regulations of disclosure of funding of internal leadership contests.
“It is a matter to be discussed by courts and the declaration needed to be made for internal party campaigning. Once (the) courts have declared, we will be able to take that forward.”
Ramaphosa also told MPs: “I’m sure you would agree it would be unreasonable and potentially prejudicial to expect disclosure of such information until all candidates and parties are held to the same requirements of disclosure.”
According to Ramaphosa, the current Political Party Funding Act does not regulate the private and public funding of parties and their disclosure. “This is the appropriate time to consider whether it is necessary for funding of internal contest to be disclosed and regulated,” Ramaphosa said before challenging the National Assembly to come up with a solution.
But Malema reminded Ramaphosa that he should be held to account. “Why do you have a problem in disclosing the names of people who made donations to you even if you did so for internal party contest? The sooner you come to reality (the better). You are the president and (should be) held to high standards,” he said.
Ramaphosa, in turn, told Malema he agreed that transparency was an absolute necessity and that he did not have a problem with that. Ramaphosa also agreed with UDM leader Bantu Holomisa that the litigation between him and Mkhwebane did not augur well for democracy.
“It so happens that the findings of the public protector were found challengeable in law and in fact. My advice has been (that) we should go to an arbiter like a court. We should not be alarmed when things like this happen,” he said.
Touching on other matters, Ramaphosa lambasted those he said walked around speaking ill of the National Health Insurance to investors while government sought to find solutions.
He was addressing a question on whether it concerned him that billions of rand were lost at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange when the NHI Bill was introduced in Parliament.