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14.08.2019 Africa

Focus on Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa wins key court battle over allegations of illegal campaign funding

By William Niba - RFI
GCIS/Elmond Jiyane
LISTEN AUG 14, 2019

The affair concerns a huge undeclared campaign donation worth half a million rand (€29,000) he received from the CEO of the controversial utility company Bosasa, ahead of the ANC's 2017 elective congress.

In her report to Parliament challenged by Ramaphosa's lawyer before the Pretoria High Court, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane accused the President of breaching the Executive Code of Ethics by not declaring the Bosasa donations.

Mkhwebane also urged the House to oblige Ramaphosa to disclose details of all his campaign funders.

Remedial action halted
What the court did on Monday was to grant a request from the two parties to suspend Mkhwebane's remedial action, demanding Ramaphosa's disclosure of all campaign donations he received and an investigation of alleged prima facie evidence of money laundering she documented.

This was while the hearing also heard the plea from Ramaphosa's lawyers to seal portions of court records - especially bank statements, "vague e-mails" and letters “illegally obtained” by the public protector.

“The President had asked the court to suspend the remedial action in the interim and Busisiwe Mkhwebane decided not to oppose that as they want this court case to be dealt with as quickly as possible”.

That's a view upheld by Fanny Rabkin, associate editor of the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper who spoke to RFI.

Rabkin who is a barrister at law, expects the case to be a long, dirty battle fought on both legal and political fronts.

Mkhwebane's integrity woes
According to the Mail and Guardian associate editor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane is likely to be the loser of the elephant fight.

As she puts it, South Africa's highest court found that the public protector made false statements to the court adding that the findings documented in a report “have had the biggest impact on her integrity”.

“It will be strange if that sort of noisy political space managed to obscure what is fundamentally a question of constitutional principle which is that the office of the public protector will be one of the highest integrity” Fanny Rabkin told RFI.

In related news, Sunday Independent reported at the weekend that a group of politicians including ANC national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana, ministers and trade unionists, earned millions for their role in Ramaphosa's successful ANC presidential campaign dubbed CR17.

Long list of undeclared CR17 campaign donors

These according to the publication Bosasa's CEO Gavin Watson was not the only prominent businessmen who donated large sums to the campaign ahead of the conference.

It rolls out a long list which could put President Ramaphosa's ability to fight corruption to question.

Featuring on the list of CR17 undeclared donors are the names of billionaire businessman Nicky Oppenheimer's family and Oppenheimer Memorial Trust board member Bobby Godsell.

This also includes former Imperial Holdings chief executive Mark Lamberti, Sygnia board member Andre Crawford-Brunt, chief executive of Goldman Sachs in southern Africa Colin Coleman and Sifiso Dabengwa  board member of South Africa's power utility Eskom, according to the Sunday Independent.

No Favours expected in return?
According to Times Live,  the presidency has maintained its position that Ramaphosa was not captured "in advance" by those who offered donations to his CR17 ANC presidential campaign.

The reaction follows claims in a scathing report by News 24, that the president  knew who the donors were.

"They were all contributing towards rebuilding the ANC and the country and exxpected no favours in return", said Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko.