Advocate Wim Trengove has slammed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in the High Court in Pretoria for her report implicating President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The senior counsel is in court for a judicial review of Mkhwebane’s report that was prompted by a R500,000 donation made by late Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson to Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, but which ended up investigating all the donations made to Ramaphosa’s campaign to become the ANC president.
Mkhwebane found, among other things, that Ramaphosa had misled parliament when answering a question on the Bosasa donation.
Ramaphosa wants Mkhwebane’s report to be set aside and declared unlawful. Ramaphosa has argued that Mkhwebane overstepped by expanding her investigation from the R500,000 donation to the financing of his entire campaign.
The then DA leader Mmusi Maimane had lodged a complaint with Mkhwebane’s office, asking her to probe Ramaphosa’s parliamentary answer in 2018 in which he incorrectly said the money was paid to his son Andile as part of a business transaction.
Mkhwebane found Ramaphosa had acted in violation of the provisions of the Executive Ethics Code by doing so.
“President Ramaphosa’s statement on November 6, 2018, on his reply to Mr Maimane’s question … was misleading as he also conceded in his correspondence to my office, and even in his subsequent letter to the speaker of the National Assembly on November 14 2018, where he sought to correct the incorrect information he had provided in the National Assembly.”
Mkhwebane conceded that Ramaphosa’s response had been in “good faith”, but his statements had been inconsistent with his office “as a member of cabinet and therefore in violation of section 96(1) of the constitution”.
She also found there was merit in the suspicion that the way money was paid during the campaign amounted to money laundering.
Trengove has argued that it should have been parliament and not Mkhwebane that investigated the president’s reply. He argued that Ramaphosa did not deliberately mislead parliament, as he corrected himself as soon as he realised his error, and even Mkhwebane had acknowledged this, pointing to inconsistency in her own findings.
He accused Mkhwebane of acting with reckless disregard towards the law as “there was no evidence that the president misled parliament”.
The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which was central to the public protector’s adverse findings against Ramaphosa, last year said in a statement that they had never found any evidence of money laundering related to the president.
This came after Mkhwebane recommended that the CR17 campaign be investigated for money laundering.
At the centre of that dispute was the FIC, which gave Mkhwebane information on the bank accounts concerned.
Ramaphosa’s lawyers have accused the FIC of acting unlawfully because they allegedly gave Mkhwebane more information than what she needed to investigate the Bosasa donation.