President Cyril Ramaphosa has responded to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on the donation to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign, with a hint of a potential legal review of her findings.
Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament with his response to a question by Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane on a R500 000 donation to his campaign from Gavin Watson, the head of controversial services company Bosasa. The company now trades as African Global Group.
Advocate Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had violated the Executive Code of Ethics. She has recommended that Thandi Modise, the Speaker of Parliament, refer the matter to the ethics committee and she has also found that the allegations of money laundering brought by the DA had merit. Mkhwebane said she notified the National Prosecuting Authority to further investigate the allegation.
Her finding is serious and marks a blow to Ramaphosa’s presidency just two months into the sixth administration, in which his credibility as the ANC’s presidential candidate culminated in its majority elections win, albeit with a reduced majority.
On Friday, in response to the report, the Presidency stated that Ramaphosa’s response to Mkhwebane’s section 7(9) notice — in which she informed him of her preliminary findings — had not been taken into account in reaching her final conclusion.
“On 27 June 2019, the President submitted a substantial response to the Section 7(9) notice dealing in detail with areas where the preliminary findings were deficient both factually and in law,” the Presidency said in the statement.
“It is unfortunate, however, that from a cursory reading of the final report, it seems that the president’s response to the Section 7(9) notice has not been given due consideration.”
The Presidency said however that Ramaphosa would study Mkhwebane’s report before deciding on his course of action going forward.
“President Ramaphosa wishes to reaffirm his respect for the office of the public protector and his appreciation of the essential role it needs to play in promoting accountability and advancing the interests of the South African people,” the Presidency said.
“The President further reaffirms his determination and commitment to fight all forms of corruption and malfeasance. To this end, no person regardless of the position they hold is above the law.”
Ramaphosa also publicly released his response to Mkhwebane’s preliminary findings.
Mkhwebane’s report comes two weeks after the damning findings she made against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, which he has taken on review seemingly with support from Ramaphosa.
Her detractors say she is involved in a political campaign to thwart Ramaphosa’s bid to clean up corruption in the state. But her supporters are adamant that Mkhwebane’s office should be respected and her findings adhered to.