Ramaphosa did not mislead on CR17, Mkhwebane cannot probe political parties’ affairs, top court rules

The Constitutional Court has found that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mislead parliament in relation to CR17 donations. File photo.
Picture: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mislead parliament in relation to the donation made to his ANC presidential election campaign in 2017.

The public protector also did not have powers to investigate private affairs of political parties.

These findings were made by the majority of the Constitutional Court on Thursday as it dismissed the appeal by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane 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 the CR17 campaign for the ANC leadership elected in December 2017.

The full bench also reviewed and set aside her findings released in July 2019 that Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament about the donation he received from Bosasa.

That judgment reviewed and set aside Mkhwebane’s decision to investigate and report on the CR17 campaign for the ANC leadership elected in December 2017.

The full bench also reviewed and set aside her findings released in July 2019 that Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament about the donation he received from Bosasa.

The public protector was also ordered to pay punitive costs in the application.

The case has its beginning in November 2018 when a question was posed to Ramaphosa in parliament relating to the payment of R500,000 into an account allegedly belonging to the president’s son, Andile Ramaphosa.

This payment was allegedly paid by the late Gavin Watson, who was CEO of Africa Global Operations (AGO), formerly known as Bosasa.

In his response, Ramaphosa said his son was involved with AGO and that the payment was related to work he had done for the company.

However, a week later, Ramaphosa wrote a letter to the speaker of the National Assembly informing her that the answer he had given in response to the question was incorrect. He explained that the payment was made on behalf of the late Watson to his CR17 election campaign.

After the second reply, complaints were directed to the public protector to investigate Ramaphosa’s conduct, alleging that he deliberately misled parliament.

The scope of Mkhwebane’s investigations was whether Ramaphosa, in giving an incorrect answer to the question directed to him in parliament, had misled parliament.

In her report released in July 2019, the public protector found that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled parliament, in breach of the Executive Ethics Code.

Ramaphosa challenged her report.

The high court found that the public protector’s sphere of jurisdiction was limited to matters involving state affairs, the exercise of public powers or conduct occurring in any spheres of government.

The high court held that the activities of the CR17 campaign were by nature the activities of members of a private group of people, and not a statutory body.

The public protector appealed to the ConCourt against the high court judgment.

Her appeal was heard on November last year.

By Ernest Mabuza – TimesLIVE

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