Public Protector Backs Off
: 2019-08-07 08:34:49

The Public protector of South Africa, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has backed off from fighting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s urgent court bid to stay her remedial action against him in her report on his CR17 election funding, pending his legal challenge to that report. Ramaphosa’s application will interdict Mkhwebane’s order that National Director of Public Prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, investigate the “prima facie” evidence of money laundering she claims to have uncovered. It is due to be heard on Monday 12 August 2019.

Her investigation was conducted after an allegation was made that Ramaphosa had deliberately lied to parliament about a R500,000 donation his campaign received from Gavin Watson, CEO of the corruption accused Bosasa group. In a letter sent to Ramaphosa’s lawyers on Monday 05 August 2019, Mkhwebane’s legal team said that she would not oppose the interdict being granted “in the interest of a speedy determination of the review”. Public protector spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said on Tuesday 06 August 2019, that the Public Protector “was not backing down” as her non-opposition was based on the fact that “the review will be conducted on an expedited basis”.

Mkhwebane has already indicated that she supports the President’s bid to have the review heard as quickly as possible. Ramaphosa maintains it is “undesirable for the President of the Republic to have an indefinite cloud of suspicion of wrongdoing hanging over his head” at “a critical time where South Africa needs to attract foreign investments to help drive our sluggish economy”. Mkhwebane’s stance will help to potentially fast-track the hearing of Ramaphosa’s CR17 court challenge, in which he seeks to overturn her entire report on his campaign funding on the basis that it is both legally and factually flawed.

It will also mean that the Public Protector will soon provide both Ramaphosa’s lawyers, and the high court in Pretoria, with the so-called Rule 53 record of documents and evidence that she used to determine that Ramaphosa deliberately lied to Parliament, that his campaign may have been complicit in money laundering and, despite his claims to the contrary, that the president was actively involved in seeking donations from CR17 campaign funders.

In court papers, Ramaphosa argued that Mkhwebane has claimed that she has evidence that he was “aware of campaign reports and donors”, despite his repeated claims to the contrary, but never shared this evidence with him, or gave him the opportunity to respond to it. In handing over the Rule 53 record, Mkhwebane will have the chance to lay bare all this as yet unseen evidence which she says includes e-mails and campaign correspondence before the court. Ramaphosa will then have a chance to respond to that evidence, before Mkhwebane files her answer to the President’s review of her report.

In that review, Ramaphosa raises “grave concerns” about Mkhwebane’s grasp of the law and maintains there is “no factual foundation whatsoever for any suspicion of a prima facie case of money laundering” that she supposedly has identified. Shortly after the report was released, prosecutions head, Shamila Batohi, said she would consider the report and then decide which investigating body she would refer it to. Business Day has sought clarity from the National Prosecuting Authority on whether Ramaphosa’s review will have any effect on that process.

Mkhwebane’s decision not to oppose Ramaphosa’s urgent interdict comes after she fought efforts by the President to stay the implementation of her remedial action against Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, whom she found had unlawfully authorised early retirement for South African Revenue Service Deputy Commissioner, Ivan Pillay. She ordered Ramaphosa to take appropriate disciplinary action against the Minister, and then slammed his legal efforts to stall that process pending the outcome of Gordhan’s challenge to the Pillay report as potentially being motivated by his friendship with the Minister, rather than genuine legal concerns.

The High Court is expected to rule on that case this week.

Mkhwebane has already been the subject of multiple court defeats in the past few weeks, including a ruling from SA’s highest court that she was dishonest and had acted in bad faith in her disastrous investigation of the Reserve Bank’s bailout of Absa/Bankorp.

Source: BusinessDay Website

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