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14 Jun 2019 00:00
Under pressure: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says the high court was wrong to infer bad faith on her part. (Madelene Cronjé)
The public protector has agreed to allow President Cyril Ramaphosa to question Bosasa boss Gavin Watson about his donation to the CR17 presidential campaign.
The R500 000 donation is the subject of an investigation by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who this week confirmed that she had sent Ramaphosa a notice under section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act indicating that she has taken a preliminary view that he is implicated. The Sunday Independent reported that in her notice Mkhwebane suggested that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament in the way he answered a question by Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane.
The Mail & Guardian has learned that Ramaphosa has sent a list of questions for Watson to the public protector.
One of them asks why he made the donation through Miotto Trading to CR17 instead of directly to the campaign and whether this was because he had received a tax benefit by so doing.
The Sunday Independent reported that Mkhwebane had said that Ramaphosa may have been involved in money laundering because the donation was made through “several” intermediaries.
Ramaphosa also wants to ask about other donations Watson may have made. He had initially asked to question Maimane and the banks whose records the public protector had subpoenaed. Mkhwebane refused in these cases. It is understood that she is still to inform the president of the time and place for the questioning of Watson.
In his initial response to the complaint, Ramaphosa said he had been confused by Maimane’s question because the DA leader had said that the money had been paid to Ramaphosa’s son, Andile, so he had thought Maimane was referring to the contractual relationship between African Global Operations, formerly Bosasa, and Andile.
Meanwhile Mkhwebane has also filed her application to appeal the damning judgment that set aside her report into the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm. She said the judgment was wrong on a number of grounds and it was “unfair in the extreme” to compare her final report with the provisional report of her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela.
In her application for leave to appeal the Vrede dairy judgment of the Pretoria high court, Mkhwebane said it was wrong to use the provisional report by Madonsela as a standard to measure the legality of her report because it had no legal status because it was “a working document or work in progress akin to a draft judgment”.
In her judgment, Judge Ronel Tolmay was scathing about Mkhwebane’s report, saying that the differences between the two affected the legality of the final report. Madonsela’s report had sought to give effect to an earlier investigation by the treasury and its recommendations, but Mkhwebane had come to a different view.
“On what basis she could justifiably come to such a conclusion is unclear. It points to either ineptitude or gross negligence,” said Tolmay.
“One may justifiably ask whether this was done for some ulterior purpose. Unfortunately no explanation was given by the [public protector] for these changes,” said Tolmay.
But, in her leave application, Mkhwebane said that if she realised that an aspect of the earlier report was wrong she was entitled to change it; and this did “not warrant an inference of bad faith or dishonesty or ulterior motive”.
The DA and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, which took the Vrede report on review, said they would be opposing the application.
Read more from Franny Rabkin
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