Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public protector had no power to investigate CR17 funding, Ramaphosa argues in court

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Feb 5, 2020

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Pretoria - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had no jurisdiction to investigate the funding of President Cyril Ramaphosa's successful CR17 campaign to be ANC leader, the North Gauteng High Court heard on Wednesday.

Representing Ramaphosa, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, told the high court that in terms of the Public Protector Act, Mkhwebane had no jurisdiction to probe funds paid into the CR17 campaign.

Ngcukaitobi told the full bench of the high court - Judge-President Dunstan Mlambo, judges Keoagile Matojane and Raylene Keightley - that Mkhwebane's findings were mistaken in law and in fact and acted outside the scope of her mandate. 

He said even the findings of possible money laundering against Ramaphosa did not arise from the complaints lodged by former DA leader Mmusi Maimane and EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu, accusing the ANC leader of misleading Parliament. 

"The public protector was factually mistaken about the nature of the complaints," Ngcukaitobi said. 

Ngcukaitobi was also highly critical of Mkhwebane's advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC’s definition of the state, describing it as "so overbroad it is actually nonsensical". 

According to Ngcukaitobi, the state is a narrow construction rather than a broader political construction. 

Sikhakhane had on Tuesday accused Ngcukaitobi of selectively relying on the Constitution and that a proper interpretation of state affairs meant that Mkhwebane had jurisdiction to investigate the CR17 matter. 

The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism's advocate Steven Budlender SC, told the court that they were not taking sides, but sought to determine whether it was constitutional for a president, his deputy or premier, to receive millions of rands to campaign for a powerful internal political party position, but never have to declare the funds. 

Budlender said the Executive Ethics Code required gifts valued at more than R350 to be disclosed, but not the millions of rands politicians receive for their internal political party campaigns.

The amaBhungane want the code declared unconstitutional and invalid if the court holds that it does not require the disclosure of donations made to campaigns for positions within political parties such as the CR17 campaign. 

Judgment was reserved on Wednesday.

Political Bureau

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