Ramaphosa off the hook, but Maimane questions ConCourt’s CR17 ...

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Ramaphosa off the hook, but Maimane questions ConCourt’s CR17 judgment

Public protector denies changing the wording of Executive Ethics Code to implicate the president

Journalist
The Constitutional Court has found that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mislead parliament about donations to his ANC election campaign in 2017.
CLEARED The Constitutional Court has found that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mislead parliament about donations to his ANC election campaign in 2017.
Image: GCIS/Elmond Jiyane

The office of the public protector on Thursday denied that Busisiwe Mkhwebane added words to the Executive Ethics Code to find that President Cyril Ramaphosa misled parliament. 

The office was reacting to the judgment passed by the Constitutional Court, which dismissed the public protector’s appeal against a decision made by the Pretoria high court in March last year.

The high court judgment reviewed and set aside Mkhwebane’s decision to investigate and report on Ramaphosa’s “CR17” campaign for the ANC leadership. The court also said the public protector did not have powers to investigate private affairs of political parties.

The ConCourt said in its judgment that Mkhwebane changed the wording of the Executive Ethics Code to conclude that Ramaphosa had inadvertently or deliberately misled the legislature.

Speaking after the judgment, the head of legal services at the public protector, Muntu Sithole, said the apex court was entitled to criticise the public protector in the manner it deemed fit.

What was the benefit to Bosasa as a company in the light of the revelations we are seeing in the state capture commission.
Mmusi Maimane

“But what happened here is that actually the public protector did not change the wording of the code,” Sithole said.

The code states members of the executive may not wilfully mislead the legislature to which they are accountable.

“There are two codes that regulate the executive members’ conduct. One code is contained in the ministerial handbook and it was approved by cabinet in 2007.

“That is the code that contains the words ‘inadvertently’ and ‘deliberately’ and that is the same code that the former public protector relied on in her investigations in the Nkandla investigation,” Sithole said.

Sithole said it was the same code which was relied upon when former minister of communications Dina Pule was investigated by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

“It cannot be that the public protector went out of her way to create words that are non-existent in statute. She relied on the code that is there, that was approved by cabinet in 2007,” Sithole said.

One South African leader, Mmusi Maimane, said the question that must be asked is: What was the benefit to Bosasa for the donation it made to the Ramaphosa campaign?

Maimane said when Ramaphosa appeared before parliament for a question and answer session, it would have been a dereliction of duty to not to ask the question.

“The president subsequently changed the facts on this issue, which meant I had one option, which is to ask the public protector to investigate whether there was a violation of the Executive Ethics Code,” Maimane said.

Maimane said while the court on Thursday dealt with the “nature of the president’s answers” in parliament, the established fact was that the Ramaphosa’s election campaign received a donation from the CEO of a company which secured over R12bn in government tenders.

“We know the donation was made to Mr Ramaphosa and, as the chief justice states, this amounts to a personal benefit.

“The question must be asked: What was the benefit to Bosasa as a company in the light of the revelations we are seeing in the state capture commission?” Maimane said.

Ramaphosa welcomed the judgment, without elaborating.

“President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes and respects the ruling by the Constitutional Court,” said a statement released by the presidency.

Parliament also welcomed the judgment of the ConCourt, saying it once and for all clarified the powers of the public protector in relation to parliament.

“The court agreed with the 2020 high court judgment that the speaker did not have the powers to instruct the president to disclose donations received by the CR17 campaign in the register of members’ interests, because the Code of Ethical Conduct and Register applied only to serving MPs,” parliament said.

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