Daniel Friedman
3 minute read
7 Nov 2019
3:10 pm

amaBhungane files papers to join Ramaphosa vs Mkhwebane court battle

Daniel Friedman

The centre wants the Executive Ethics Code declared unconstitutional for not requiring politicians to declare donations to internal party campaigns.

Cyril Ramaphosa (picture: Siyabulela Duda) and Busisiwe Mkhwebane (Picture: Jacques Nelles)

The amaBhungane centre for investigative journalism has filed papers in an attempt to join the ongoing legal battle between President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which sees the president taking her report finding he misled parliament on review.

Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa should have declare donations to his successful CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency, and that he violated the Executive Ethics Code by failing to do so. Ramaphosa’s lawyers argue that the code does not require the declaration of donations to internal party campaigns such as CR17.

amaBhungane say they are not choosing sides in the case.

They believe the president’s lawyers are right about the Executive Ethics Code not currently requiring politicians to declare internal party campaign funding, due to a precedent set by an earlier case involving former DA leader Mmusi Maimane – who was accused of violating the code of conduct for members of parliament – a similar document to the ethics code – by failing to declare who funded his campaign for the leadership of the DA.

However, amaBhungane is trying to have the Executive Ethics Code declared unconstitutional for this exact reason – that it doesn’t force politicians to declare who funded their internal party campaigns. They want the code amended so that it does make such declarations mandatory going forward.

This is because “the CR17 campaign clearly showed, internal party campaigns are a huge business and donations can have a profound effect on the outcome – and therefore the leadership and direction of a ruling party,” says the centre in an advocacy release aiming to explain their decision to get involved in the case.

“We are intervening to advance investigative journalists’ and the public’s right to information about who funds candidates who stand for positions in political parties,” the centre said on Twitter.

“This is part of our mandate, which is to develop the field of investigative journalism, not just practice it.”

READ MORE: Daily Maverick rubbishes Ndlozi’s query on the ‘obvious lie’ it received R300K from CR17

The centre also wants the court to reverse its decision to seal court records which the public protector is alleged to have acquired illegally, arguing this “would undermine the principle of open justice”.

Despite the High Court in Pretoria ruling that these records must be sealed, their contents were leaked to the media.

This led to stories in News24 and the Sunday Independent exposing some of the inner workings, beneficiaries and donors of the CR17 campaign, which were dubbed #RamaphosaLeaks on social media.

The News24 story reported on leaked e-mails which appear to show that Ramaphosa’s claim that he was not involved in the running of the campaign or aware of its donors was at least partially untrue.

It also appeared to show that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was central in raising funds for the campaign.

The Sunday Independent reported that bank records, e-mails and financial statements identify the beneficiaries of the “R1 billion” campaign fund, who according to the story were “politicians, campaign managers and strategists” who “earned millions for their roles in Ramaphosa’s” successful CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency.

They alleged that some of Ramaphosa’s main funders were numerous wealthy businesspeople, including mining magnate Nicky Oppenheimer, who reportedly gave R10 million; Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman, who gave R1 million; and eNCA founder, director and owner of Hosken Consolidated Investments Johnny Copelyn, who donated an alleged R2 million on behalf of the news channel. Former Absa CEO Maria Ramos was another alleged donor.

The Sunday Independent report was co-written by a trio that included Piet Rampedi and Mzilikazi wa Afrika – two of the journalists behind the now discredited Sunday Times reports on the so-called Sars “rogue unit”. They both parted ways with the Sunday Times after these reports were retracted and apologised for when the media ombudsman found them to be “inaccurate, misleading, and unfair”.

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