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President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JEFFREY ABRAHAMS
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/JEFFREY ABRAHAMS

Complaints to the public protector about Glencore and the so called “Farmgate” did not prevent President Cyril Ramaphosa from suspending Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the president said in court papers filed on Thursday.

Ramaphosa was responding to Mkhwbane’s application to the Western Cape High Court to urgently hear the second part of her application challenging the president’s power to suspend her and to prevent parliament from continuing with an impeachment process against her. 

Her attempt to secure an urgent interim interdict (Part A) failed on June 10. She has now asked the court to urgently hear Part B, to set aside her suspension and the steps taken by parliament’s impeachment committee so far. 

In her latest bid, she added new reasons for having said Ramaphosa’s suspension was unlawful. These included that when she publicly announced she would be investigating a complaint related to the allegations about the millions in cash stolen from the president’s Phala Phala farm, “I was met with an almost immediate retaliatory response of an immediate, inexplicable and clearly irrational suspension”.

“The clear message and example sent to the other agencies, whether inadvertently or otherwise, must clearly be one of intimidation and instilling fear. My suspension will most certainly have that probably desired effect,” said Mkhwebane in her court papers.

But Ramaphosa said in his answering court papers: “I am accountable to the people of SA ... I state unreservedly that I have given my full co-operation to investigations that are under way.”

Ramaphosa said he would not answer in this affidavit to the substance of the allegations about “the so-styled Farmgate” because there were already allegations pending in which “I have given my full co-operation”.

These included the public protector’s investigation, he said. He would be answering the questions Mkhwebane had sent to him about that by July 18, as per an agreement with acting public protector Kholeka Gcaleka, he said. 

“Advocate Mkhwebane places no facts before the court to demonstrate, even on a prima facie basis, that her suspension has impeded the investigation in any manner whatsoever or that her suspension has in any way affected the investigation negatively or resulted in the acting public protector being unable to fulfil her obligations in respect of the investigation,” said the president.

He acknowledged in his affidavit that the allegations in the criminal complaint laid by Arthur Fraser were “serious”.

“I have given a public undertaking that if I am criminally charged, I will step aside and temporarily vacate my office,” he said.

Ramaphosa also addressed the complaint raised by Mkhwebane related to Glencore, saying he was not aware of any investigation against him by the public protector in relation to Glencore.

He said a closer look at the letter from UDM leader Bantu Holomisa showed that it did not — as Mkhwebane claimed — ask her to “investigate whether or not the president was implicated in such corruption or breach of the Executive Members Ethics Act”.

Instead the letter had referred to reports of the revelations of corruption by Glencore in its guilty plea in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and had said that “although SA was not specifically cited ... the likelihood of these practices happening in SA is quite high”. It referred to Brian Molefe’s evidence at the state capture commission and suggested that the public protector “could take up the issue” to potentially uncover “corruption of the same nature here”.

“This new complaint therefore does not constitute a pending investigation,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said that before 2014, he had held an interest in Shanduka Resources, which was a “shareholder partner” with Glencore SA.

“I divested myself of my interest in Shanduka Resources during 2014 and no longer have an interest in any Glencore SA associated company.”

He added that as far as he knew, the allegations of bribery and corruption related to other Glencore companies, in which he never held any interest.

“Glencore SA has not, as far as I am aware, been accused of bribery and/or corruption, nor is Glencore SA the subject of any criminal investigations in SA, the US or any other country.”

“Consequently, there is no basis for the alleged conflict of interest in respect of the Glencore issue,” said Ramaphosa.  

The hearing of Mkhwebane’s Part B application is expected to happen on July 25 and 26. The impeachment process in parliament is scheduled to get under way on July 11. 

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