Ramaphosa will survive Mkhwebane's machine gun, but he has been wounded

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Tebogo Letsie

In an era of the weaponisation of social media and the proliferation of fake news, Ramaphosa will have to be much smarter going about winning hearts and minds for his new dawn, writes Adriaan Basson.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to survive Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane's latest salvo against him, but will have to do serious introspection about who he listens to and the strength of his frontline.

EFF leader Julius Malema and I don't agree on many things these days, but I concur with the red-in-chief that Ramaphosa should be concerned about his team of advisors.

There is a full-out war against Ramaphosa for his efforts to deal with the nine wasted years of state capture under former president Jacob Zuma and he needs better protection.

In an era of the weaponisation of social media and the proliferation of fake news, Ramaphosa will have to be much smarter going about winning hearts and minds for his new dawn.

The president announced on Sunday night that he will take Mkhwebane's findings against him on urgent review. The majority of lawyers who have scrutinised her report agree with Ramaphosa's view that the Public Protector is on shaky legal grounds.

Even to this legal layman it is clear that Mkhwebane overreached by digging into the CR17 campaign funding when she was officially only tasked to determine whether Ramaphosa had lied to Parliament about the R500 000 donation his campaign received from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson.

She uses the famous Oilgate judgment to justify doing this, but her real reasons may be less noble. It is clear from her report that she is rubbing her hands in glee for the major donors to Ramaphosa's ANC campaign to be revealed.

If indeed Mkhwebane is part of a bigger fightback against Ramaphosa's new dawn, as the president hinted at on Sunday, she may hope that the publication of the donors' names will support the pro-Zuma narrative that Ramaphosa is captured by white big business.

It will come as no surprise to anyone if very wealthy white (and black) businesspeople donated to Ramaphosa's campaign. Can you blame them? Under Zuma, South Africa was on the edge of the precipice. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was clearly positioned to continue Zuma's work with the help of the Guptas.

Imagine where we would have been had NDZ emerged victorious from Nasrec; no Zondo commission, no Shamila Batohi, no Investigative Directorate; no Edward Kieswetter or new boards at Eskom and Transnet.

Many people saw a Ramaphosa victory as the only way for the ANC and the country to survive. There can be no rational argument against this.

This is not an argument in support of the obscene amounts of money that were splashed by both Ramaphosa's and Dlamini-Zuma's campaigns to win at Nasrec. Ramaphosa's biographer Anthony Butler calls it the "billion-rand election".

Mkhwebane may not be correct that Ramaphosa should have declared donations to his campaign to Parliament, but the country and the ruling party should have serious conversations about this culture of patronage.

Everyone who has attended an ANC conference knows the bar talk of brown envelopes and suitcases filled with cash to buy votes. At Nasrec I was reliably told that you could sell your accreditation tag as a delegate for up to R100 000.

This is an inherently corrupt system and something Ramaphosa and his comrades will have to fix if they want clean up the entire state.

The other big lesson from the Bosasa saga is that Ramaphosa's campaign should never have solicited money from Watson, a man deeply implicated in corruption and state capture.

Accepting that Ramaphosa didn't know who his fundraisers were cornering, it is shocking and scary to accept that his chief fundraisers and advisors did not know or was willing to accept Watson's dirty money.

Reports about Bosasa's capture of the criminal justice system abound since 2006. How was it possible for nobody in CR17 to have raised a red flag?

Mkhwebane's report is by no means fatal, but it is a timeous reminder for Ramaphosa to strengthen his core if he wants to survive for a decade.

- Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.

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