Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane believes laying a complaint with the public protector’s office against President Cyril Ramaphosa was the right thing to do.
It is his grievance over a R500 000 donation by utilities company African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa, to Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign that has raised the political temperature to its current nearly untenable state.
The president came into power on a ticket of clean governance and a zero-tolerance approach to corruption.
Since then, Bosasa’s alleged role in state capture has been laid bare at the Zondo commission. There are also allegations Ramaphosa’s son Andile benefited from Bosasa contracts after he won the ANC presidency.
After Maimane’s grievance, Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa violated the executive ethics code by not disclosing campaign fund contributions while he was still deputy president and an MP.
The public protector’s report also detailed a campaign war chest of hundreds of millions of rands for the then presidential hopeful.
Ramaphosa has taken the report on judicial review, but damage to his anti-corruption stance has already been done. And, although Maimane’s complaint has weakened the president, the DA also wants to remove the public protector.
The party said she has a low grasp of the duties of her office, and points to several reports that have been overturned by courts as evidence that she’s not fit for the office.
Maimane said he believes in the office of the public protector more than he does Mkhwebane herself.
He’s confident that she won’t continue in her job with the growing number of court judgments against her: “There’s no denying that she’s unfit to hold office. But she still has an important institution in law. And I can’t take away those basic facts. So we’ll push for her to be removed. But it’s not going to be a question of weeks or days, it’s a question of months.”
Maimane said he’s delayed laying criminal charges against Ramaphosa until after a judicial review of Mkhwebane’s findings into Ramaphosa is complete.
But the DA leader believes an independent, criminal probe is needed to look into the vast amounts of money that went into the CR17 campaign.
“If the NPA can investigate that, then the NPA must investigate. Because this Bosasa issue deserves an inquiry all on its own,” he said.
Maimane is aware of the potential ramifications of this test of Ramaphosa’s presidency, with people in opposing ANC factions waiting for a chance to remove him from office: “The political moment is that South Africans are anxious about [deputy president] DD Mabuza, and the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters]. There are big fears that if Cyril goes then we have DD. Then we are all at war.”
But Maimane said he won’t come out as a guardian of the Ramaphosa presidency: “The ANC has brought us to this point. You are asking us to be the defenders of Ramaphosa from his own party. That’s madness. We are going to be in this movie for forever and a day. The sooner we realise we need to live in a post-liberation movement, post-ANC movement, where we can form better alliances for the people of this country [the better].”
He said the past week’s events have greatly affected perceptions of Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”, and the influence of money in politics.
“The president is under real pressure. He’s cast his whole line and has to depend on this judicial review. One cannot deny that the ANC’s presidency went for R400-million. That’s more than what we spent on the election engaging with 57-million South Africans. [Ramaphosa] used that to engage with 4 000 voting ANC delegates. What was that money for?”
The DA leader said he looks forward to asking Ramaphosa directly about his campaign finances and allegations of funds for favours for his son. He will get an opportunity to do just that when the president returns to the National Assembly after the upcoming winter recess to answer MPs questions.
“He’s certainly got questions to answer. I will not be shying away from these matters. He can’t mislead Parliament. He can’t launder money, in my view. And things will become uncomfortable. This is the question he must answer,” Maimane said.