High Court dismisses application to unseal Ramaphosa's CR17 campaign bank statements

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Jaco Marais (Netwerk24)

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has dismissed with costs, the EFF's application to have the bank statements of President Cyril Ramaphosa's CR17 campaign made public.

The Economic Freedom Fighters approached the court to force the disclosure of the statements in an application linked to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's invalidated report on the CR17 campaign finances.

During the course of that litigation, Gauteng Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba agreed to a request from Ramaphosa's lawyers for the bank statements to be sealed on the basis that they contained confidential donor information.

The EFF later challenged that decision.

While Ishmael Semenya SC, for the EFF, was at pains to say that the party was not insinuating that there was anything "untoward" in the donations to the campaign, he argued that when information that was supposed to be public was kept confidential, there was a danger that politicians would use public office to further the agendas of benefactors.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court dismissed Mkhwebane's efforts to challenge the invalidation of her report on the campaign finances.

Justice Chris Jafta, on behalf of the Constitutional Court's majority, ruled at the time that Mkhwebane's finding that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament about a R500 000 donation his campaign had received from corruption accused Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson was legally and factually unsustainable.

Mkhwebane had also investigated Ramaphosa's CR17 campaign finances – and found that he had failed in his ethical duty to disclose donations made to his drive to claim the ANC Presidency. She found that some of the payments made to CR17 had raised a reasonable suspicion of money laundering and ordered that Ramaphosa disclose all his CR17 donations to Parliament. 

All of these findings and directives have now been roundly rejected by the Constitutional Court's majority.

Outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng wrote a dissenting ruling – in which he found, among other things, that Ramaphosa was duty-bound to disclose his CR17 donations. Mogoeng's ruling had no legal impact on the majority's decision, which found the opposite.

Ramaphosa's special advisor and member of his CR17 fund-raising campaign Bejani Chauke had previously slammed the EFF's case as legally untenable and driven by "narrow political ends". Chauke further accused the EFF of "blindly" supporting Mkhwebane in her "unjustified pursuit of the president" and said it appeared that the party "has taken it upon itself to pursue that which the Public Protector cannot pursue without embarrassing herself and her office".

Chauke said the statements in question were contained in a Financial Intelligence Centre report that was "unlawfully filed" by Mkhwebane, in her failed bid to defend the legality and validity of her report on the President's campaign funding.

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