/ 22 September 2022

Time for Ramaphosa to reveal who paid for his rise into the presidency

Ramaphosa: Reminded, lobbied and plotted against
To 2024? ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has been vindicated in its quest to hold the president of South Africa accountable for his dubious financial activities with this week’s confirmation by the constitutional court of an order of the high court declaring the executive ethics code unconstitutional. 

Guided by the Guinea-Bissau revolutionary thinker and agronomist, Amilcar Lopes Cabral, we must, at all times, “tell no lies and claim no easy victories”. It is, therefore, important that the people of South Africa are given the historical genesis of this judgment which will now see the executive accounting and disclosing the funds and donations that they receive for their internal party battles and contests. 

Last year, the EFF approached the courts to order President Cyril Ramaphosa to unseal the CR17 bank statements and disclose them to the people of South Africa who donated to his campaign in the build-up to the national conference of the ANC in 2017. The principled and basic argument of the EFF was that who gives money to a contender for state president, even if that money was donated for their internal party contest, concerns us, the people of South Africa. 

In South Africa, whoever is elected as the president of the leading political party goes on to be elected as president of the country. Therefore, those who invest in the ascendancy to power of an individual at an internal party conference, are also de facto investing in the capture of public office. 

The CR17 phenomena is a classic case of executive capture and the maxim “buy one, and get one for free”. The oligarchs and owners of monopoly industries in South Africa understood that if they buy the president of the ANC, they will get the country “for free”. 

This is reflected in the programme to privatise and sell off all state assets and enterprises to private interests. The fundamental question that the people of South Africa should ask is whether the people who have lined up to buy SAA, Eskom, Transnet, Denel and other state-owned enterprises (SEOs), donated to the CR17 campaign for Ramaphosa to become president of the ANC and South Africa. 

The deceitful tactic of neoliberal governments and administrators is to manipulate and sabotage the core functions of all government institutions and enterprises, with the hope of angering and frustrating the people so that it may be the people themselves who end up conceding to the notion that the solution lies with the private sector. 

There is no evidence that the private sector is the paragon of efficacy and ethical practices. If anything, the private sector is the total opposite. The 2008 global financial crash, which led to the loss of over $2-trillion from the world economy, was a product of greedy banks and private interests. 

Therefore, the narrative which is being propagated by the elite that the woes of Eskom can be resolved by privatisation is wholly ahistorical and fictitious. The privatisation of Eskom, just like SAA, will only lead to the inaccessibility of electricity for the poor majority of South Africa. Independent power producers, whose primary objective is to maximise profit, will leave the majority of South Africans without electricity and the middle class in further debt.  

The EFF urges Ramaphosa to come clean on who gave him money to become the ANC president so that we may be able to scrutinise the beneficiaries of his privatisation programme. 

Of equal and greater concern are the allegations that there are judges who were also paid from the CR17 donations, confirming our long-held suspicion that the current administration has captured certain benches in the courts of South Africa. The unsealing of the CR17 statements, therefore, will empower the people of South Africa to rid our courts of corrupt and captured judges. 

The EFF approached the courts of South Africa with these ethical and constitutional principles of executive transparency and accountability. Ramaphosa’s only defence before the courts has been that there is no law in South Africa which explicitly compels him to disclose the financial interests of his internal party contestation. 

With the support of certain benches, the sole “get-out-of-jail-free-card” of the sitting president has not been the merits, ethical and constitutional standards of hiding his funders. Rather they all sung the unholy and hubristic chorus that he simply did not have to and, therefore, will not. 

The case was then followed up to the highest court of the land, until this week when the constitutional court agreed with the EFF that the executive ethics code is invalid and unconstitutional to the extent that it does not require members of the executive to disclose donations that they receive for internal party campaigns and contests. 

Our message to the people of South Africa remains simple and consistent — the capture of an internal process of a majority party in South Africa translates to the capture of the country. Buying Ramaphosa’s presidency in the ANC, translates to buying Ramaphosa as the sitting president of South Africa and all executive decisions concerning the state. 

Although vindicated, the EFF ought to also problematise the lack of confidence that the bench of the constitutional court has in the Constitution because the constitutional court should not need a subsidiary law to hold a sitting president accountable. 

The Constitution of South Africa is sufficient to hold Ramaphosa accountable. What was needed was judicial will and courage. 

Although the ruling will be applied prospectively, we must all guard against using this ruling to further seal the CR17 statements and cushion Ramaphosa at the expense of the democratic institutions and the people of South Africa. 

Ramaphosa is on the horns of a dilemma. A no-win situation. His unsustainable insistence to duck and dive accountability on the illegal dollars hidden in his couch at his Phala Phala farm, gives us greater reason and determination to continue the fight for the unsealing of the CR17 statements. 

Like his Ankole cattle, the president may be for sale, but we will never allow our country to be auctioned away to the highest bidders.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.