President Cyril Ramaphosa can breathe a sigh of relief after Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka found no wrongdoing by him regarding his comments on the misuse of funds within the ANC, which surfaced in a leaked audio recording last year.
In her final investigation report, which she released on Friday, Gcaleka said that there was no evidence that Ramaphosa “contravened any provisions of the Ethics Code,” adding that allegations against the president were unsubstantiated.
Allegations against Ramaphosa were that he violated the code by failing to inform and provide evidence to all relevant investigation authorities regarding the alleged misuse of state funds for the political party's activities.
The Acting Public Protector explained:
This after Ramaphosa, in an audio, which was widely circulated on social media and sparked public debate, spoke of his knowledge of allegedly looted state money that was used for the party’s political campaigns in 2017, as well as his decision to remain silent to protect the party’s image.
The remarks were captured in a recording of an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting that was leaked in December last year.
In the audio, Ramaphosa can be heard saying they know that in some cases, state money has been used in some campaigns and they will not talk about it.
Ramaphosa further says: “I am prepared to fall on the sword so that the CR17 campaign, yes, should be the only one that is looked at.”
During a meeting of the ANC’s NEC, he said:
Early this year, suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane subsequently launched an investigation into Ramaphosa for allegedly breaching the Executive Code of Ethics.
However, on Friday, Gcaleka said Ramaphosa had not.
“In the circumstances, the Public Protector of South Africa is satisfied that the utterances of the president in the audio were not in violation of the code. Accordingly, the investigation is closed,” she said.
The investigation into Ramaphosa was launched after ANC MP Mervyn Dirks wrote to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) requesting the committee to summon Ramaphosa to account for his remarks made in the leaked audio recording.
In January this year, the ANC subsequently suspended Dirks for trying to initiate a probe into Ramaphosa’s knowledge of looted state money that was used for the party’s political campaigns in 2017.
This after on January 26, Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa called a special sitting to allow Dirks to present and motivate his request. After the committee deliberated on the matter, the committee resolved to instruct Ramaphosa to explain his utterances.
However, in June, the committee decided not to investigate Ramaphosa regarding the audio.
This after members of the governing party and a majority of Scopa members prevented the committee from summoning Ramaphosa to give oral evidence on his remarks following a majority vote in March.
On allegations that her office was protecting the president, Gcaleka said:
“It is crucial for us to emphasise that Mr Dirks’ complaint, as you will see in the report, was never about the CR17 campaign and in any event, we could not reinvestigate.”