The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) on Thursday found President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mislead Parliament about donations made during his 2017 ANC presidential election campaign, among other things.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Chris Jafta said Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who investigated the matter, got the facts and law wrong.
“Therefore, the Public Protector was wrong on the facts and the law with regards to the issue whether the president had willfully misled Parliament and the high court was right to set aside her finding,” the judge said.
Mkhwebane did not have powers to investigate
Jafta also ruled there was no evidence that Ramaphosa personally benefitted from donations made to his CR17 campaign, adding that Mkhwebane did not have the authority to investigate the campaign, as it was not part of the complaints she was investigating.
“There is no merit in the argument advanced by [the Public Protector and the EFF]. Both the Constitution and the Public Protector Act do not empower the Public Protector to investigate private affairs of political parties. Political parties do not perform a public function or exercise a public power as it is a private affair not a state affair,” he said.
The campaign’s financial records were sealed in August 2019 by Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba after Ramaphosa argued they were illegally obtained by Mkhwebane during her investigations.
In July 2019, Mkhwebane released her controversial report on the CR17 campaign.
In it she found Ramaphosa had breached the executive ethics code by not disclosing a R500,000 donation to the campaign made by Gavin Watson, the late former chief executive of Bosasa, and misled Parliament, as well as that there was “merit” to the suspicion of money laundering.
The report was reviewed and set aside by a full bench of the court last March. Mkhwebane has since approached the ConCourt with an application for leave to appeal.
The high court in Pretoria heard an application by the EFF in March to unseal the financial records of the CR17 campaign.
This was after Ramaphosa said in November last year that the publication of the bank accounts belonging to donors who funded the CR17 campaign was out of his hands.