Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: SOWETAN
Mosiuoa Lekota. Picture: SOWETAN

While political parties remain divided over public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s adverse findings against President Cyril Ramaphosa, COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota has called for the country’s leader to be impeached. 

Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National Assembly about the R500,000 donation he received from Gavin Watson, CEO of the corruption-accused company Bosasa. 

The donation was reportedly for Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential election campaign in 2017.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane lodged a complaint with Mkhwebane late last year after Ramaphosa initially told parliament that the R500,000 payment was a consultancy payment from Bosasa to his son, Andile. Days later, Ramaphosa wrote to then speaker Baleka Mbete and admitted he was wrong, and that the money was actually a donation to his election campaign.

“I, therefore, find President Ramaphosa’s conduct ... to be inconsistent with his office as a member of the cabinet and therefore a violation of section 96(1) of the constitution,” Mkhwebane said on Friday.

Lekota said it was “so absolutely obvious” that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled the house about the donation.

We are called honourable members because we took an oath to always be truthful when we are in the House. In the House everything you are saying is under oath,” he said. “He’s got to be impeached. What happens to people when they are caught lying in court? They get arrested and charged. Now, if he has found to have lied, he must face the consequences and be impeached. In a normal society he should face that.”

In February, Lekota accused Ramaphosa of selling him and other detainees out to the apartheid-era special branch in 1974 to save himself from being jailed on Robben Island. Ramaphosa has denied this.

Booted out

The ANC and EFF could not immediately be reached for comment. However, EFF leader Julius Malema has previously warned that Ramaphosa could be booted out of office over the matter, and that deputy president David Mabuza will succeed him should that happen.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said it was important to hear the president’s views on the findings. “Is he going to accept this or apply for a judicial review of the findings? If I were in his boots, I would simply go back and ask to address parliament on the matter and further explain what happened, where possible, show some remorse, and say: ‘I made a mistake, I apologise’.”

Holomisa said the president has some options he could look into but warned that “if he doesn’t handle this properly, he might end up being in trouble in terms of the laws of the country. And he knows those laws”.

IFP spokesperson and standing committee on public accounts chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa said it views Mkhwebane’s findings in a very serious light and expects parliament to comply fully with them. “We will take the matter up with the speaker next week so that parliament will set in motion a process to respond positively to the public protector’s findings.”

He noted, however, that the adverse findings against Ramaphosa come as no surprise as the president had already corrected himself in parliament over the matter. “[Mkhwebane] merely confirmed what we already know, so there should be no consternation on this matter moving forward.”

ACDP president Kenneth Meshoe said that while Mkhwebane’s findings are shocking, it will wait for the courts to confirm the findings, should Ramaphosa take them on review, before commenting further.

SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said the findings against Ramaphosa are not at all surprising, noting that the party  “expressed its reservations a while ago about the manner in which Mkhwebane conducts herself and the affairs of the absolutely important office of the public protector”.

Mashilo said the material basis of the concern “is found in the damning court judgments against her”, adding: “This includes the reasonable apprehension of bias, disingenuousness and unconstitutional conduct found by the court of law in her work.”

There have been calls for a parliamentary process to remove Mkhwebane, whose fitness to hold office has been questioned after a number of embarrassing court setbacks. The public protector has also been dogged by questions over her impartiality and allegations that she is at the heart of factional battles in the ANC, a factor that some critics say influences her decisions on which cases to pursue.

Meanwhile, Business Unity acting CEO Cas Coovadia said it is concerned about the “trajectory and trend” coming out of Mkhwebane’s office on issues that seem to be decided “in courts and elsewhere”.

SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Alan Mukoki said the findings are still challengeable. “We will comment when the president says: ‘I have accepted the findings.’ Until that has happened, we are very restricted from commenting.”

The presidency could not immediately be reached for comment.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za