Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko has told eNCA that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not commit any crime and was, and is, under no obligation to declare the donors to his 2017 ANC presidential campaign.
Diko was responding to a weekend report by News24 that revealed leaked emails from the CR17 campaign which showed that Ramaphosa was consulted by his campaign managers on certain potential donors, despite consistent denials that he was involved in the fundraising efforts of the campaign.
Diko said the narrative emerging around these emails was nothing more than "smoke and mirrors" and maintained that Ramaphosa had been honest over his involvement in the campaign’s finances.
"We are quite perturbed by the narrative being built around these emails. Yes, we appreciate that South Africans have a legitimate right to want to know who funded the campaign, but there was no obligation on the part of the president or the campaign to release that particular information," Diko said.
"There is no regulation that requires for that information to be made public, and a lot of those donors would have donated because it was going to be confidential.
"I want to reiterate. This is just smoke and mirrors. At the core of it, the president has not committed any crime. None of those donations are coming from anybody, to the best of our knowledge, who would have gotten that money illegally," she added.
The emails obtained by News24 formed part of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report into complaints by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) over a response given by Ramaphosa to DA leader Mmusi Maimane in Parliament, in November 2018.
Maimane asked about a supposed payment to the president’s son, Andile, from corruption-accused company Bosasa.
'It’s a bit concerning'
But it turned out, the payment mentioned by Maimane was actually a donation to the CR17 campaign by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson – which Ramaphosa himself revealed in a letter to the speaker of Parliament.
Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled Parliament over the donation.
Ramaphosa has indicated he will challenge the report in court.
As part of reaching her conclusion that Ramaphosa was involved in the fundraising of the campaign, Mkhwebane relied on the same emails leaked to News24.
Diko said the Presidency did not wish to cast aspersions on any person for the leaking of the emails, but added that the office was concerned.
"This campaign sought to create a higher standard. One of many campaigns, the president was not the only person contesting that election and surely not the only person who would have sought to raise money. He did not raise it from public bodies, it was private individuals who donated," Diko said.
"We do not want to cast aspersions on any person for the leaking of the emails. It’s a bit concerning… who is it that would have access to the head of state’s private communications?" Diko asked.
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