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Ramaphosa personally benefited from CR17 campaign, finds Mogoeng in minority ruling

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa

Published Jul 1, 2021

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OUTGOING Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng believes President Cyril Ramaphosa personally benefited from his successful CR17 campaign to become ANC leader.

Mogoeng on Thursday penned the minority judgment in Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s unsuccessful attempt to overturn the March 2020 judgment of the full bench of the high court – Judge-President Dunstan Mlambo, Judges Keoagile Matojane and Raylene Keightley – that declared her 2019 report into Ramaphosa’s CR17 ANC presidential campaign invalid, reviewing and setting it aside.

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According to Justice Mogoeng, Ramaphosa was a direct and primary beneficiary of the money sourced by the CR17 campaign.

”It was not for the benefit of the party or official party structure, party-political campaign, or any other person, but for his own upward mobility – his personal benefit. The CR17 campaign was all about him,” the country’s top judge explained.

Justice Mogoeng continued: “It was not meant to fund the party to run its day-to-day operations or win elections. It was about him fulfilling his dream to become president of the party and, by extension, of the republic. After all, the party neither asked for those donations nor were they paid to the party coffers. He did and they were paid to his chosen or endorsed recipient.”

The Chief Justice’s contention is at odds with the majority judgment, penned by Justice Chris Jafta with Justices Mbuyiseli Madlanga, Rammaka Mathopo, Nonkosi Mhlantla, Leona Theron, Zukisa Tshiqi and Margaret Victor concurring, that Mkhwebane failed to discover that Ramaphosa personally benefited from the CR17 campaign donations.

Justice Jafta, who is set to retire in October, said there was no evidence that established a personal benefit by the president.

”The e-mails on which the public protector relied simply showed that the president was more involved in the affairs of the campaign. This is not the same as receiving personal benefits,” said Justice Jafta.

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But Justice Mogoeng maintained that Ramaphosa exposed himself as an incubator of a risk of conflict by urging and allowing potential donors to sponsor his successful bid to become ANC leader.

He said at a time when Ramaphosa was the country’s deputy president, he urged and allowed potential donors to sponsor his own ambition to become ANC president.

”When people or entities other than the then deputy president’s party gave him sponsorship or financial assistance for the purpose of realising his ultimate political dream, he was, by accepting help or allowing others to accept help on his behalf, exposing himself to a situation involving the risk of conflict,” Justice Mogoeng said.

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He added that the sponsorship or financial assistance to help Ramaphosa rise to the highest political office was most likely to induce a favourable disposition towards those who stood by him when help was sorely needed.

”Donors knew who they were helping and if the unethical ones, assuming there are any among them, were ever to desire help or favours from the state, they would know who to go to – the deputy president, and soon to be president,” reads the dissenting judgment.

Justice Mogoeng warned that “there is an ever-abiding risk of conflict between being financed to become president of a party (private interest) and one’s position as the deputy president and leader of government business in Parliament or president of the republic (official responsibility)”.

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He added that it was necessary to emphasise that nothing suggested that sponsors were somehow interdicted or legally forbidden from informing the real beneficiary of the extent of their individual contributions, and even producing proof.

Mogoeng said he supported the main judgment only to the extent that it was reconcilable with these reasons and would have upheld the appeal, made no order as to costs, but remit the AmaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism’s challenge to the Executive Ethics Code to the high court and order Ramaphosa to pay its costs.

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Cyril Ramaphosa

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