Public protector tries to close the lid on leaks

Published Mar 13, 2023


Johannesburg - Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has warned opposition and other interested parties against divulging the contents of her preliminary Phala Phala report, which has already been reported on by the media.

The EFF and other opposition parties have rejected the preliminary report on the Phala Phala farm scandal.

On Friday, Gcaleka released her much-awaited preliminary report on the theft, where a large amount of foreign currency was stolen by Namibians linked to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s domestic worker.

Leaked copies of the report that emerged in the public domain have cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing, with the public protector saying Ramaphosa did not contravene the Executive Ethics Code. Gcaleka found there was no proof that he was actively involved in the running of the farm.

Reacting, African Transformation Movement spokesperson Zama Ntshona said it was disappointing that the interim report had been leaked to the media after it received a threatening letter from the Office of the Public Protector warning it not to divulge the contents of the report.

“This smacks of a well-orchestrated campaign to favour one side while a right of response is denied. The ATM is not at liberty to comment on the substance of the letter at this stage because of the imposed restrictions, save to say our lawyers are studying the report and will make a formal submission to the acting public protector,” Ntshona said.

In a letter, Gcaleka said public consumption of the report remained prohibited and would only be subject to such scrutiny once the implicated people had been given an opportunity to study it and make representations.

Gcaleka said in a statement: “The notice remains prohibited for public consumption under Section 7(2) of the Public Protector Act, which prohibits the disclosure, by any person, of the contents of any document or record of any evidence given before the public protector or deputy public protector during an investigation ...

“Once the affected and implicated persons have submitted representations to the public protector, such representations will be considered and a final report will be produced and published.”

Gcaleka said that she had given the affected and implicated persons 10 days to make the necessary representations.

The EFF described the report as “predictable and nonsensical”, as it “irrationally found Ramaphosa committed no wrongdoing”.

EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said: “The EFF rejects the predictable outcome of the captured acting public protector’s report, which irrationally found that Ramaphosa committed no wrongdoing when he laundered money and evaded tax in relation to Phala Phala farm and when he sanctioned a rogue investigation to recover the illicit foreign currency kept at Phala Phala farm.”

The party berated Gcaleka after she spent nine months investigating the matter only to arrive at her conclusion that Ramaphosa was innocent of all the possible violations.

“Gcaleka deliberately utilises the scapegoat of Cyril Ramaphosa, and accredits the misuse of SAPS resources to General Wally Rhoode, as if he has the ability to operate outside of the directives of his principal with regards to conducting a rogue investigation to recover the money stolen at Phala Phala,” the EFF added.

The DA said the leak was unfortunate as the representation of affected and implicated persons was yet to be considered, adding that, as things stood, the report had many contradictions.

The DA said: “The report contains a number of inherent contradictions, and the public protector has outsourced much of the investigatory work to the SA Revenue Service and the South African Reserve Bank, where it will be cloaked in secrecy. None of this provides the necessary transparency and accountability to conduct oversight over (the) president.

“We also believe that the public protector has misunderstood the nature of the conflict of interest raised and has thus compiled a preliminary report that is not congruent with or reflective of the complaint that was lodged.”

The DA said it would study the preliminary findings to compile and submit its representations to the public protector, and would communicate on these submissions in due course.

Presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said Ramaphosa had received the preliminary report, which he was still studying.

“As stated before, we reiterate that the president did not participate in any wrongdoing, nor did he violate the oath of his office. Instead, the president was a victim of a crime that he duly reported to the relevant authorities,” he said.

The EFF called on Rhoode and Bejani Chauk to be truthful regarding who gave them the directives to conduct the criminal activities that they undertook in attempts to recover the illicit money stolen from Phala Phala Farm.

Legal expert Mpumelelo Zikalala said Gcaleka’s finding was partly true.

“When you are a police officer, regardless of who you are guiding, you need to stick to what I am saying. You can’t decide that I’m going to break the rules for so and so, even the president,” he said.

The Star