ConCourt finds Ramaphosa did not deliberately lie to Parly on CR17 matter

The legal battle centres on a half a million-rand donation to Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign to become ANC president.

President Cyril Ramaphosa at an ANC NEC meeting in Irene on 1 April 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Constitutional Court has found that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had no evidence that President Cyril Ramaphosa personally benefitted from the donations made to the CR17 campaign.

Justice Chris Jafta handed down the judgment on Thursday morning.

The court has dismissed Mkwebane's appeal of the High Court's findings on funding for Ramaphosa's presidential campaign. Ramaphosa challenged Mkhwebane's report and won; the Public Protector then took her cause to the Constitutional Court, which ruled the president did not deliberately mislead Parliament.

"The Public Protector found that the R500,000 donation from the CEO of African Global Operations passed through several intermediaries and this raised the suspicion of money laundering. But the evidence placed before her, dispelled all of this. The donation passed through only one account and not several intermediaries," Justice Jafta said.

The ConCourt said Mmusi Maimane, while he was the leader of the Democratic Alliance, had his facts completely wrong when he asked Ramaphosa about the so-called CR17 campaign. Ramaphosa responded to Maimane's questions on 6 November 2018; that answer led to the basis of this case.

Jafta said: "The Public Protector investigated whether or not the President and his son used the campaign to enrich themselves, although this was not part of the initial complaints presented to her."

The president complained that the interim report did not have remedial actions, which he was entitled to be consulted on; Mkhwebane countered this by saying the Public Protector Act allows for affected parties to be consulted during investigations, the court said.

The court also ruled that the Public Protector did not have the authority to investigate the matter as political parties are private entities. However, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng dissented on this, saying that Ramaphosa had a duty to disclose his donors.

The legal battle centres on a half a million-rand donation to Ramaphosa's campaign to become ANC president and the Mkhwebane's finding that as President of South Africa, Ramaphosa had misled Parliament about that donation.

But Mkhwebane's report went further than that, delving into all donations to the campaign totalling well over R200 million according to her.

The Public Protector was scathing, saying there was merit to the suspicion that money laundering was involved and recommending remedial action.

Ramaphosa took the decision on review and the Pretoria High Court found in his favour, setting it aside in an equally scathing judgment that called it “inexplicable,” “reckless” and “without basis in fact or law”.

The court also found she didn't have the jurisdiction to investigate the campaign funding.

Mkhwebane then approached the Constitutional Court on whether the president did mislead Parliament and whether the Public Protector's investigation into the CR17 campaign was within her scope.

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