Zille puts brake on Ramaphosa in tablet saga – for now
He can’t act on protector’s findings - but there’s also that Bosasa ‘donation’ he needs to speak to Mkhwebane about
Western Cape premier Helen Zille has obtained an urgent interdict to prevent President Cyril Ramaphosa from acting on a public protector finding against her.
Zille secured the Pretoria High Court order against Ramaphosa, the speaker of the Western Cape legislature and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). This prevents them from acting on a report by Busisiwe Mkhwebane which found that Zille gave her maths-teacher son an “unfair advantage” when she lent education department tablets to him. The premier obtained the unopposed order on the day the presidency confirmed that Ramaphosa was meeting Mkhwebane to discuss a controversial donation that Bosasa made to his ANC presidential campaign.
Ramaphosa initially told parliament the R500,000 donation was paid in a business transaction to his son, but later backtracked and said he had subsequently learnt that it was in fact a donation to his 2017 campaign to lead the ruling party.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said Ramaphosa met Mkhwebane to address a complaint “alleging that the president violated the executive ethics code by deliberately misleading parliament and whether there is an improper relationship between the president and African Global Operations”.
African Global Operations was formerly known as Bosasa.
Zille, meanwhile, is challenging Mkhwebane’s findings that she violated the Constitution, the Public Protector Act and the executive ethics code by assisting her son Paul Maree to lend tablets from the province’s education department so that he could provide free extra maths lessons to disadvantaged matrics.
At the time, Maree was employed by the Western Cape education department at the COSAT school in Khayelitsha and was not paid for the lessons.
Mkhwebane maintains that, while Maree’s intentions may have been good, Zille was wrong to facilitate the loan of the tablets to him.
“The premier’s involvement in the process that has resulted in securing access to the tablets in question by her son, and in the acquiring of her son’s company’s services and resources, has exposed her to the risk of a conflict between her official responsibilities, as a first citizen of the province, and private interests which involved her son,” she said in her December 2018 report.
“This conduct of the premier has consequently resulted in the violation of her constitutional obligation to avoid an exposure to the aforesaid risk.”
She ordered that a copy of her report be provided to Ramaphosa, who then had 14 days to submit that report – and his comments on it – to the NCOP. The chairperson of the NCOP was then charged to “ensure that the report is processed”, while the speaker of the Western Cape legislature was ordered to table the report before the legislature “for it to take appropriate action”.
Zille’s lawyers obtained a high court order on Tuesday interdicting any such remedial action from being implemented, pending the resolution of Zille’s legal challenge to the procedural fairness, legality and rationality of Mkhwebane’s tablet report.
Zille has vehemently denied there was any conflict of interest in relation to her intervention in the loan of the tablets, since education officials were fully aware that Maree was her son and she had written an e-mail stating that the tablets should be made available to any NGOs or individuals seeking to offer free extra maths training.