The president says the public protector’s lack of understanding of the law is ‘gravely concerning’.
In new court papers filed by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding that his campaign for the ANC presidency is involved in potential money laundering is dismissed as “wholly incompetent”.
Business Day reports that Ramaphosa said in the papers that there was no factual foundation for suspicions of a prima facie money laundering case, accusing Mkhwebane of having shown a serious lack of understanding of the law by legally conflating money-laundering with corruption.
“Corruption and money-laundering are two legally distinct concepts. By confusing these two statutes, the public protector has shown a grave misunderstanding of the law,” he is reported as saying, adding that he found this “gravely concerning”.
Ramaphosa accused Mkhwebane of having acted “outside of her authority” in the court papers, and of lacking the jurisdiction to investigate money paid to his CR17 campaign.
The president argued that these were simply “donations made to a campaign,” and don’t implicate the state or presidency in any way.
The papers were filed at the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday, and do not relate to Ramaphosa’s battle against Mkhwebane which will take place this morning, which will see the president to determine whether he is legally obliged to follow the public protector’s remedial action based on a report involving Minister of Public Enterprises Gordhan, relating to his irregular approval of the early retirement of Ivan Pillay while commissioner of Sars.
This follows Gordhan successfully interdicting Mkhwebane from enforcing the remedial action based on another report, which found Gordhan had violated the constitution through his involvement in the so-called Sars “rogue unit” and by allegedly lying to parliament about meetings with the Gupta family.
This does not mean he’s entirely off the hook, as the matter remains before the courts, but it is the second legal defeat the public protector has suffered recently.
On July 22, the constitutional court upheld a personal costs order against Mkhwebane relating to her Sarb/Bankorp report, dismissing her attempt to appeal it.
The highest court in South African law also ruled that Mkhwebane was not honest in her investigation into an apartheid-era deal between the South African Reserve Bank and Absa bank, that she acted in bad faith, that she fell “egregiously short of what is required” of her office, and that her report on the matter was flawed.
The damning judgment also found that Mkhwebane had “put forward a number of falsehoods” in court, “including misrepresenting under oath”.