Mkhwebane lays down the gauntlet: 'Ramaphosa's conduct in Bosasa donation scandal is 'constitutionally questionable'

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Jan Gerber, News24)
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. (Jan Gerber, News24)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of "constitutionally questionable conduct" not befitting a head of state, in a scathing answering affidavit filed in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

Mkhwebane's affidavit is in response to Ramaphosa's review application in which he wants the court to overturn her CR17 report into his ANC presidential campaign donations.

READ | Public Protector officials axed 'because of FSCA investigation' and 'to settle scores'

She said by trying to review her report, Ramaphosa was trying to avoid taking responsibility for "conduct that is constitutionally questionable".

While promising to steer clear of "personal attacks" in the affidavit, Mkhwebane accused the president of the same in what appeared to be thinly veiled contempt for Ramaphosa and his legal team.

She said Ramaphosa's allegations that she had fudged her report "demonstrates a lack of understanding about the Office of the Public Protector" and the president's own oath of office.

"Or, a simple failure to account."

Front company

Mkhwebane's report centres on Ramaphosa's response to a follow-up question during a sitting of the National Assembly in November 2018 from former DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

Maimane asked Ramaphosa about a R500 000 payment from the late Gavin Watson through a Bosasa front company called Miotto Trading for the benefit of Ramaphosa's son, Andile.

Ramaphosa responded the payment was above board but later corrected his oral reply in a letter to the Speaker, saying it had in fact been a donation to his CR17 campaign from Watson, and that at the time he responded to Maimane he had not been aware of the fact.

Mkhwebane found "suspicions of money laundering" were substantiated, that Ramaphosa had failed to declare the benefit he accrued from Watson to Parliament and therefore had deliberately misled it.

Ramaphosa, however, said Mkhwebane had made "serious errors of fact and law" in her report.

READ | Person with legal aptitude should help Public Protector - candidate for Deputy Public Protector

In August, the courts granted Ramaphosa's application for an interdict staying the implementation of Mkhwebane's remedial action against him in her report, which included an order that he disclose all his funders to Parliament.

But in her latest affidavit, Mkhwebane doubles down on her assertion that the president acted unlawfully. She said his pursuit of her in court amounted to conduct not befitting a head of state.

"To simply make wild claims that correct and accurate information was unlawfully obtained is a disappointing explanation by a head of state who should demonstrate exemplary conduct and ability to take responsibility for conduct that is less than what is expected of a person occupying the office he occupies.

"No other person would be permitted to get away with the kind of obfuscation obtained in the president's affidavits. If all are truly equal before the law, it should not be permitted by any court," Mkhwebane stated.

Authority

Ramaphosa previously accused Mkhwebane of obtaining information about his campaign finances from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) illegally.

Mkhwebane rejected this, saying, "… the president offers no evidence whatsoever" that this happened.

Ramaphosa also accused her of acting outside of her authority in investigating his campaign donation funds, and unduly extending the scope of her investigation to include money laundering allegations that did not pertain to the whole campaign.

But Mkhwebane said she had a duty to investigate money-laundering allegations, adding she was permitted by law to investigate complaints on her own initiative.

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