Who pays for the president’s legal battles?
Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa says Ramaphosa must tell the public who is footing the bills to avoid more leaks, which are harmful.
President Cyril Ramaphosa in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation address. PHOTO: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa should tell parliament whether the cost of his legal battles with Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane are for the public purse and if so, why.
This is according to the chairperson of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), Mkhuleko Hlengwa.
Ramaphosa’s office had yet to respond at the time of going to press to a request to confirm whether the state was paying his fees.
Speaking about the president’s challenge of two of Mkhwebane’s reports – one affecting him in his personal capacity and the other directing him to act as a president – Hlengwa said these were issues which could be cleared up during the current revision of the Ministerial Handbook, which guides how public funds could be used by members of Cabinet and the president.
But, he added, the specific issues surrounding Mkhwebane’s report which found Ramaphosa lied to parliament about his knowledge of donations made to his CR17 campaign warranted an explanation on why public funds should be used to defend him.
“Well, it can’t be a knee-jerk reaction because, at present, it has not yet been determined whether or not the president may use public funds to deal with these matters,” Hlengwa said. “What I can say is that the president must indicate to us who is paying his legal fees and if it is the public, he must take us into confidence on why he feels the public should pay.
“It is all good and well if he is paying in his personal capacity but where public funds are being used, it is prudent for the president to open up and prevent another leak, because leaks raise questions. He must rather take us into confidence.”
Last year, Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma was ordered by the High Court in Pretoria to pay millions of rands in legal fees which were paid by the state during a nine-year battle opposing the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) corruption charges against him.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s spokesperson, Azola Mboniswa, said his boss was still awaiting an official response to a letter he wrote earlier this year, asking Ramaphosa not to use public funds to take Mkhwebane’s CR17 report on review and imploring him to pay for this in his personal capacity.
“Even before the report on the Bosasa matter came out, he wrote to the president asking him to take an undertaking that once he sees the report and decides to take it under review, he must be using his own resources to pay for legal fees,” Mboniswa said.