African National Congress president Cyril Ramaphosa greets supporters as he arrives at the Ellis Park stadium for the party’s final election rally in May 2019. File picture: Jerome Delay/AP
African National Congress president Cyril Ramaphosa greets supporters as he arrives at the Ellis Park stadium for the party’s final election rally in May 2019. File picture: Jerome Delay/AP

One year since controversial CR17 bank statements were sealed

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Aug 20, 2020

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Johannesburg – It’s been a full year since the court ordered the sealing of the infamous CR17 campaign fund bank statement, but the fallout refuses to go away.

The fund was a financial vehicle for President Cyril Ramaphosa to amass funds while he was fighting for the ANC's presidency with Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma (NDZ).

Estimates from the media reports suggested that within months, the fund amassed R1 billion and the money was used for several purposes. Prime among the purposes was hiring of vehicles, conference venues, hotels and flights for lobbyists who were criss-crossing the country to garner support for Ramaphosa.

For a more sinister motive, the funds were allegedly used to fund the several legal battles mainly in KZN and the North West where CR17 supporters eventually convinced courts to disband regional and provincial structures that were pro-NDZ, thus handing her a big electoral blow.

Although one of the KZN legal firms involved in the provincial legal battles previously denied to Independent Media that it got paid from the CR17 funds, a name with a striking resemblance to it was underlined in copies of the bank statements which were widely circulated before they were sealed.

The statements also revealed that several ANC provincial bigwigs were paid unexplained sums ranging from R20 000 to R100 000.

While at first the sealing was not challenged, the decision is now facing three legal challenges that seek to overturn the ruling of North Gauteng (Pretoria) High Court Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, who agreed with Ramaphosa’s lawyers that it contained personal information and the information could have been illegally obtained.

The surprise challenge came from AmaBhungane which went to the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to ask it to open the statements as keeping them sealed was going to breed a culture of secrecy. The other more recent challenge came from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) which also argued they must be opened and that saying Ramaphosa did not directly benefit was a fallacy meant to fool the populace.

“We reject the logic that Ramaphosa did not personally benefit from the CR17 campaign funds. We also reject the conclusion that he, therefore, did not have to declare the funds of the CR17 campaign to Parliament,” the EFF said in March this year after a court ruling that said Ramaphosa did not personally benefit from the fund.

The legal actions of the two interested parties are independently complementing an appeal by the Public Protector, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who is appealing against Ledwaba’s ruling which sealed the statements on the basis that they might have been illegally obtained.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, told Independent Media on Thursday that the appeal would be heard on September 30 this year.

All these legal challenges to the secrecy around the statements are being challenged by Ramaphosa’s lawyers.

His spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, did not respond when asked why Ramaphosa was not asking the court to only protect the confidential information instead of sealing the entire statement. He was also asked to respond to concerns that the legal fightback would promote a culture of secrecy and did not respond.

Durban-based political analyst, Thabani Khumalo, said the issue of the funds would forever be a blot on Ramaphosa’s record. Furthermore, he said it would always be a weapon for the internal ANC faction opposed to his rule, his external detractors and the critical South African populace.

“The other faction will always use it to discredit him, even those who are critical of the ANC will use it as the party is no ordinary one but a party in government. Moreover, even South Africans, in general, will always ask questions about the issue,” Khumalo said.

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