President Cyril Ramaphosa has decided to take Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into his campaign finances, which found he had violated the executive code of ethics, on an urgent judicial review.
“I have decided to take this action not out of disrespect for the Public Protector as a crucial institution of our democracy, but in the expectation that the institution will ultimately be strengthened by an independent and impartial judicial review.”
Ramaphosa, speaking to the nation from the Union Buildings on Sunday evening, said the report contained “numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature”.
He also claimed Mkhwebane had violated the Public Protector Act, the Constitution and “the principles of our common law” by not giving him an opportunity to comment on the proposed remedial actions.
On Friday, the Public Protector released her report into the donation, finding Ramaphosa had misled Parliament when he answered a question by DA leader Mmusi Maimane on the R500 000 contribution from Gavin Watson, the head of services firm African Global Operations (formerly known as Bosasa).
The president initially answered the payment was made to his son, Andile who had a contract with Bosasa. Days later, he back-tracked, writing to Baleka Mbete, the then-speaker of the National Assembly, informing her that the payment was actually a donation to his campaign fund, though he was not aware of it.
The Public Protector did not buy this response from Ramaphosa. She also recommended that the police and National Prosecuting Authority look into aspects of the donation, including whether Watson had lied under oath.
Mkhwebane said transactions into and from several trust accounts for Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign have raised suspicions of money laundering, and these should be investigated by the NPA.
Drawing a conclusion on the donations and the exchanging of large sums of money, Mkhwebane alluded to a scenario of state capture.”I wish to express my preliminary view that such a scenario, when looked at carefully, creates a situation of the risk of some sort of state capture by those donating these moneys to the campaign,” Mkhwebane said.
Looking at the “prima facie evidence” before her, Mkhwebane said in her findings she was of the view that allegations of money laundering have merit.”
The allegation that there is an improper relationship between President Ramaphosa and his family on the one side, and the company Africa Global Operations on the other side, due to the nature of the R500 000 payment passing through several intermediaries instead of a straight donation toward the CR17 campaign, this raising suspicion of money laundering has merit.”
The Public Protector ordered that all donations to Ramaphosa’s campaign for the ANC’s 2017 presidential race be made public.
She also found Ramaphosa had breached the executive ethics code by failing to disclose financial interest accrued to him as a result of the donations received for the so-called CR17 campaign.