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The CR17 donors must understand that in the morality index those who rise to power on a clean ticket are judged harsher than those for whom corruption is the norm, writes Mpumelelo Mkhabela.
decision by backers of Cyril Ramaphosa's presidential bid to establish a formal
fundraising platform with his approval was a phenomenal success. Not only did
the campaign raise hundreds of millions of rands, it also achieved its goal. Needless
to say, Ramaphosa became president of the ANC in 2017.
early 2018, Ramaphosa, then deputy president of the country and member of Parliament,
was elected by the National Assembly as president of the republic after Jacob
Zuma was forced to resign from the position.
led the ANC to the fiercely contested national elections. There is reasonable consensus
that had Zuma remained in power and had Ramaphosa lost to Nkosazana
Dlamini-Zuma at Nasrec, the ANC would have either lost or had its majority more
drastically reduced than was eventually the case in the 2019 elections.
ANC triumphed precisely because Ramaphosa was perceived as representing the
antithesis of the ruinous state capture networks of the Guptas. In his
campaign, Ramaphosa projected the ANC as a party that was prepared to undo the
wrongs that happened under Zuma.
is debatable whether Dlamini-Zuma would have been able to run a campaign of
that nature had she won the ANC presidential succession race. No doubt a leader
in her own right and known for her dislike of corruption, her biggest handicap
would have been the people who had campaigned on her behalf or for themselves:
Zuma and his supporters. Their victory would have made the economic
consequences of Nhlanhla Nene's dismissal as finance minister look like a kindergarten
Ramaphosa not obtained the huge financial backing from prominent individuals
with deep pockets to propel him to power, South Africa would either be a basket
case under the ANC or governed by a ramshackle coalition government. He had no
chance in hell to defeat the Zuma coalition which relied on access to state
resources, a network of controversial business people including former convicts
and, of course, the Guptas.
it is the financial backing that Ramaphosa received that has controversialised his
ascendance to power. The Public Protector, armed with a complaint by the leader
of the official opposition, Mmusi Maimane, to investigate whether the president
lied to Parliament and whether there was money laundering, decided to probe all
the CR17 funds beyond the subject of the complaint about a parliamentary
the CR17 funds were not public funds did not matter to Busisiwe Mkhwebane. She
seized on Ramaphosa's moment of political lapse when he attempted to answer a
substantive question without notice. He voluntarily corrected himself in a
subsequent letter to Parliament.
reasons that are going to dominate court proceedings, Mkhwebane expanded her
gaze beyond the specific parliamentary question about a Gavin Watson
donation. The court will soon hear Ramaphosa's review application where he
argues that Mkhwebane had no jurisdiction over private donations for
intra-party-political contests. She is defending her remedial actions including
the directive that Ramaphosa must disclose this funding because he personally
benefitted from it.
has assured South Africans that donations made to his campaign had no strings
attached. He had no obligation to return any favours to the people who donated.
This, he claims, was a key consideration in the way CR17 donations were
will most likely win the legal case against Mkhwebane. But he still has to
fight to win the political case in the court of public opinion and the court of
his opponents in the ANC.
CR17 donors can assist Ramaphosa. The donors he appointed to boards of
state-owned companies should voluntarily consider their positions. Although
they are people of high caliber who qualify for such appointments, they should
help Ramaphosa get out of the political quagmire.
must understand that in the morality index those who rise to power on a clean
ticket are judged harsher than those for whom corruption is the norm. Even the
corrupt and their supporters tend to pass judgement on their supposedly clean
Ramaphosa appointed to some board positions are wealthy and do not need to make
a living from the appointments. They probably agreed to serve in the spirit of
Thuma Mina to strengthen Ramaphosa's hand in instilling good governance. But it
is time they also consider the negative political impact of their generosity.
there will be intense public scrutiny on big commercial deals or tenders that
are awarded by government or state-owned enterprises. If any of the business
people who donated to Ramaphosa are seen to be clinching deals, the CR17
donations saga will continue to haunt the president.
it was an act of good citizenship to sponsor a campaign to defeat state capture,
the donors should act like good Samaritans: expect and accept nothing in
return. They should not be part of new business deals or appointments that may undermine
their supposed act of good citizenship.
- Mkhabela is a regular columnist for News24.
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