President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: MOELETSI MABE
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: MOELETSI MABE

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the selective leaking of e-mails and documents related to his campaign for the ANC presidency is part of a well-orchestrated and sinister agenda to undermine positive change in SA.

Under-fire public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane recently released controversial reports on Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, the key proponents of a clean-up of the government and state-owned entities (SOEs),  throwing into doubt their roles in the clean-up process and the drive to revive SA’s sluggish economy.

“There was neither criminality nor abuse of public resources when there was the CR17 campaign. This matter is before our courts and it will be discussed, we will wait for the determination,” the president told parliament on Thursday.

“The CR17 campaign was a legitimate, forward-looking and necessary effort to promote the renewal of the governing party and the broader society and it was undertaken under difficult conditions,” he said.

He said those who contributed to his campaign did so expecting nothing in return.

“Whatever work they did was in their individual capacity for internal party political party campaigning. Those who contributed to the campaign, whether as organisers, volunteers, service providers or donors, did so out of a genuine concern for the future of the country,” Ramaphosa said.

He said while transparency is crucial, the Political Party Funding Act, which he signed into law earlier in 2019, is silent in terms of rules for public disclosures for internal party campaigning. He said this is an issue that parliament has to debate, so that all candidates are held to the same standard.

“I would therefore like to suggest that this parliament take responsibility for ensuring that the same standards of accountability and transparency are applied to all parties and leaders,” Ramaphosa said.

He conceded that the spat between himself and Mkhwebane did not augur well for democracy, but “we have found the findings of the public protector are challengeable in terms of the law and in fact”.

In July, the public protector released her report on the donation to Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign by Bosasa. She found that the president had deliberately misled parliament about the donation to his campaign. She ordered that national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi investigate “prima facie evidence” of money-laundering linked to the campaign.

Earlier in August, the high court in Pretoria granted Ramaphosa an interdict staying the implementation of Mkhwebane’s remedial action against him in her report on his CR17 election campaign, which includes an order that he disclose all his funders to parliament.

Mkhwebane did not oppose Ramaphosa’s application. Under the terms of the order granted by the court, Ramaphosa’s challenge to Mkhwebane’s report will be heard on an “expedited basis”. The president says that it is crucial that the case is decided as soon as possible.

The public protector has suffered a series of legal blows in recent times, which has emboldened those calling for her to be removed from office. Her critics say she is acting on behalf of a faction in the ANC that is working to derail Ramaphosa’s reform agenda.

Mkhwebane has rubbished the claims, saying she is doing her job and holding senior officials to account.

Ramaphosa faced tough questions on his campaign funding from opposition parties during a question and answer session in the National Assembly on Thursday.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane also threw Ramaphosa a curve ball, revealing a 2014 letter that then ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize wrote to Gavin Watson, the boss of corruption accused firm Bosasa, thanking the company for a R3m donation to the party ahead of the general election that year.

Maimane asked Ramaphosa what Mkhize meant by “continued financial support” and whether the party would pay back all the funds received from Bosasa as they were proceeds of corruption. 

The company, now trading as African Global Operations, has over the years scored government contracts worth billions of rand. It was already facing corruption allegations at the time Mkhize allegedly wrote the letter.  

The SIU drafted a report in 2009 on alleged tender rigging involving Bosasa and senior correctional services officials, including the then national commissioner, Linda Mti, and CFO Patrick Gillingham.

Ramaphosa asked for more time to go through the letter before responding. Maimane said the president had 14 days to report back to Parliament.

Sunday Times Politics Weekly | CR17: Did Ramaphosa buy his position in the ANC?

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