Mmusi Maimane. Picture: AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
Mmusi Maimane. Picture: AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

DA leader Mmusi Maimane came out in strong support of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's finding on Friday that President Cyril Ramaphosa “deliberately” misled parliament about a R500,000 donation he received from Gavin Watson, the CEO of the corruption-accused Bosasa group.

Maimane’s support came despite the DA’s view that Mkhwebane is unfit to hold office and should be removed. It has submitted a proposal in this regard to parliament’s justice portfolio committee.

Maimane said at a media briefing that it was important to recognise that he had laid the complaint on the basis that no individual should be above the law, even the president.

Asked whether the DA was not playing into the hands of the anti-Ramaphosa faction within the ANC, Maimane said it was not his job to decide whether or not they supported one or other faction of the ANC but to uphold the principles of constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

The DA believes that Ramaphosa had misled parliament and that he must be held to account for this. If it was found that there had been money-laundering, as Mkhwebane's report suggested, then he must be held to account for that crime as well.

If Ramaphosa wanted to contest Mkhwebane's findings in court that was his right, Maimane said. 

The DA’s fight for the public protector to be removed would continue, he stressed.

Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had violated the code of ethics and said that as a remedy, the speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, should refer the matter to parliament’s joint committee on ethics and members interests within 30 days of the receipt of her report.

Modise must also demand that Ramaphosa declare to parliament all donations he received while he was deputy president. The national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, was ordered to investigate “the prima facie case of money-laundering”. 

Maimane said the DA would call for the establishment of an ad hoc committee to decide on what appropriate sanction should be imposed on Ramaphosa for misleading parliament, as the president is not an MP and therefore not subject to the ethics committee. The ad hoc committee should have the power to subpoena Ramaphosa to give evidence.

He also called on all current MPs to declare their sponsorships in line with Mkhwebane’s remedial action and accepted her recommendation that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) investigate a case of money-laundering.

“This is not about Ramaphosa. It is about exercising accountability by any individual even a president," Maimane said.

Mkhwebane found that there was “merit” to suspicions that the way the money was paid amounted to money-laundering.

She said Ramaphosa “should have allowed himself sufficient time to research a well-informed response” to questions from Maimane in parliament in 2018 about that payment, which he initially claimed had been made to his son, Andile Ramaphosa. 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.

Mkhwebane said it was a “concern” that he had given a “heat of the moment” response to Maimane’s question.

“I, therefore, find President Ramaphosa’s conduct as referred to above, although ostensibly in good faith, to be inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet and therefore a violation of section 96(1) of the constitution,” she said.

Mkhwebane has also found that the allegation that Ramaphosa exposed himself to “the risk of a conflict between his official duties and his private interest or used his position to enrich himself and his son through businesses owned by African Global Operations [formerly Bosasa] is substantiated”.

She said Ramaphosa was “duty-bound” to declare the “financial benefit” he had received as a result of donations to his internal ANC election campaign, including the money he received from Bosasa, and said his failure to do so amounted to a breach of the executive ethics code.

“I have evidence which indicates that some of the money collected through the CR17 [Ramaphosa election] campaign trust account was also transferred into the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation account from where it was also transferred to other beneficiaries.”

ensorl@businesslive.co.za