According to a report by Times Select, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyers have submitted in legal papers that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was given two years’ worth of bank statements linked to the CR17 campaign funds that helped to get Ramaphosa elected ANC president.
This has apparently confounded his lawyers, since all she had been investigating, and was meant to have been investigating, was a R500,000 donation to the campaign from the controversial company Bosasa.
The Financial Intelligence Centre has been accused of breaking the law by being so freewheeling with SA banks’ private client information, which they are legally only allowed to have access to for the purposes of combating financial crimes.
Ramaphosa’s lawyers have further expressed the concern that Mkhwebane herself, or her office, leaked the CR17 bank statements, but she countered that someone else who must have done it as she wasn’t the only one with access to the documents.
Earlier this month, the presidency slammed the fact that the confidential banking information about the contributors to and recipients from Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign had been leaked to the media.
Spokesperson Khusela Diko said the information, supposedly held only by the public protector, had included the bank statements of third parties, which had recorded private transactions and which were meant to be “strictly confidential”.
Laws that may compel public office bearers and parties to declare significant campaign donations have not yet been enacted in South Africa.
“The Presidency notes with grave concern what amounts to a violation of the constitutionally enshrined right to privacy. This is all the more troubling as it seems clear that this information had been, from the first instance, obtained in an illegal manner,” said Diko.
Two weeks ago, the high court granted a request to seal the banking records of donors to Ramaphosa’s campaign, though by then much of the info was already in the media’s hands.
As a result of the ruling, the public would not be able to access the financial records held by the court, which would usually be made available following their submission by Mkhwebane following Ramaphosa’s application for a judicial review of her report, which found the president had misled parliament over a R500,000 campaign donation from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson.
She also claimed to be concerned about possible money laundering, which the presidency dismissed as evidence that she didn’t understand what money laundering actually is.
Peter Harris, a lawyer representing Ramaphosa, said in a letter to Judge Aubrey Ledwaba: “We submit that the bank statements of EFFG2, Linked Environmental Services, Ria Tenda Trust and Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation accounts contain confidential information which must be protected.”
The public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said at the time that Mkhwebane would not appeal the decision, but expressed disappointment over the sealing of the banking details.
Segalwe said: “The judge took a decision to seal the records purely on the basis of the insinuations that the records were obtained illegally. It appears that the president was only interested in protecting his donors, who did not make representation that they did not want their details of financial funding be made public.”
The president was also granted an interdict, unopposed by the public protector, preventing her from enforcing any of the remedial action in her report until his judicial review had been concluded.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)