/ 18 March 2021

High court reserves judgment on bid to reveal Ramaphosa’s donors

Fifth President Of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa Visits The Eu
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The high court in Pretoria has reserved judgment on the Economic Freedom Fighters’ bid to force the release of the financial records of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the leadership of the ANC, after hearing that the public interest outweighed the right to privacy.

The argument came from EFF counsel Ishmael Semenya SC, who said opening the campaign records was demanded by the principles of open justice.

The legal team for the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) countered this by pointing out that the information on money flows the body provided to embattled public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane were never before open court.

Advocate Les Morrison, for the FIC, said disclosure of the record would violate the confidentiality clauses in the Financial Intelligence Act.

The FIC provided Mkhwebane with information during her investigation into whether Ramaphosa had misled parliament with an answer in the National Assembly on a donation by Bosasa. 

Mkhwebane strayed beyond her remit by delving into other donations to the campaign and concluded that the evidence pointed towards money-laundering. 

Ramaphosa had her report overturned in a damning court ruling against Mkhwebane, one of several that may see her impeached for incompetence.

According to the FIC and the president’s legal counsel, the record of payments to the campaign were part of Mkhwebane’s record of decision in reaching her findings, and were not part of the court record.

Moreover, she was always warned that it could not be released.

Ramaphosa successfully petitioned North Gauteng Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba to seal the record, until the parties could reach an agreement on which portions should be open. She subsequently defied an instruction from the judge to file the papers to his office, instead deposing these with the registrar.

Ledwaba had the papers transferred to his office.

Wim Trengove SC, appearing for the CR17 committee, also advanced the argument that the documents the EFF is demanding be open for all to see never made to an open court.

The party launched the case late last year as the political fight-back against Ramaphosa  escalated, with his foes claiming the donations would reveal that he was captive to capitalist interests.

The party is leaning on the constitution and the Electoral Act to argue that donations to individuals in a party should be public, as a deterrent to corruption, in the same manner that by law, of late, donations to political parties must be disclosed.

Semenya said Ramaphosa’s objective in becoming president of the party was always to become president of the country, hence the campaign could not be separated from his election as head of state.

Trengove argued that Ramaphosa’s bid for the ANC presidency involved a private campaign and a private contest in which the general public did not vote.

Reserving judgment after two days of argument, Judge Cassim Sardiwalla remarked that the case was of considerable public interest.