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Ramaphosa seeks urgent judicial review of Mkhwebane’s ‘flawed report’

2019-07-21 20:08

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be taking Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s “fundamentally and irretrievably flawed report” – which found him to have violated the Executive Ethics Code and the Constitution – on urgent review.

Addressing the media on Sunday, Ramaphosa said after consulting with his legal team he had come to the conclusion that Mkhwebane’s findings were inaccurate and her investigation “had violated the provisions of the Public Protector’s Act”.

“The findings that the Public Protector has made against me are serious,” Ramaphosa said.

“It should be a matter of concern for all South Africans that an office of such Constitutional consequence as that of the Public Protector should make findings of such a nature against the Head of State. It is therefore essential ... that such findings are based on fact, that they have a sound legal basis, that they are rational and that they have been arrived at through a fair, impartial and lawful process,” Ramaphosa said.

“Unfortunately, the Public Protector’s report falls short and fails to satisfy these crucial requirements.”

Given these reservations, the president said he was left with no choice but to approach the courts for an urgent review.

He maintained that even through he was seeking such recourse, he still respected and called on South Africans to defend the independence of all chapter nine institutions – including the Office of the Public Protector.

“It is essential that the courts review the report not only for me but to preserve the integrity of the office of the president and that of the public protector,” he said.

“My decision to review is not a comment on the person who occupies the office of the Public Protector. It’s about the law.”

Ramaphosa’s announcement came after Mkhebane on Friday found that he had “deliberately misled the National Assembly when he responded to a question posed to him by DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

The question was in relation to whether his son, Andile Ramaphosa, had received money from African Global Operations (AGO) chief executive Gavin Watson.

In her findings, Mkhwebane said she found that “although ostensibly in good faith”, the president’s response was “inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet”.

She explained that any funds that the president received during his campaign amounted to donations and “therefore benefited him in a material nature”. Therefore he ought to have declared the monies in line with Parliment’s Finacial Interests Act.

Mkhwebane also revealed that following her investigations, she had uncovered “suspicion of money laundering because the donations from AGO passed through several intermediaries”.

The president has not taken these allegations lying down. His legal team on Friday released a response saying Mkhwebane’s findings were unlawful.

According to the response written by his legal team, the Public Protector investigation was not meant to focus on his ANC presidential campaign but rather on whether his son had a contract with AGO to provide consultancy services.

Mkhwebane’s findings that Ramaphosa was supposed to declare his financial interests because he was deputy president at the time were also slammed by his attorneys.

“The president is not bound to declare the donations he received for his campaign because it was not for him directly but for the campaign,” HNM Inc said.

The president’s legal team has slammed findings that he was aware of the donation by Watson.

“The president and campaign managers had come to the agreement that they would not disclose any details about the donors,” according to the response.

“The president is not bound to declare the donations he received for his campaign because it was not for him directly but for the campaign,” HNM Inc said.

Allegations that the president was involved in money laundering were labelled “absurd” because Mkhwebane based this finding on the fact that Watson apparently routed his donation to CR17 via a private company.

Ramaphosa’s legal team also highlighted that they were not granted the opportunity to interview Watson.

They claim to have never received a response from the Public Protector’s office but instead found out through an article on City Press that the Public Protector’s Act did not allow for witnesses to be cross-examined.

Mkhwebane’s recommendations were that the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise demand the publication of all Ramaphosa’s donors within 30 days and within the same number of days also refer the president’s violation of the Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure Members’ Interests to the joint committee on ethics and members.

She has also instructed the police to look into whether Watson lied under oath.

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December 8 2019