The legal team of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has filed heads of argument at the high court in Pretoria, arguing that President Cyril Ramaphosa expects “special treatment” that was not granted to former president Jacob Zuma.
The public protector frames her battle against Ramaphosa as a fight to hold those in power accountable. He is attempting to overturn the remedial action stipulated in her report which found he had misled parliament over a donation to his CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency by Bosasa.
“To really understand this case,” the submission says, “one has to ask the hypothetical question as to what the attitude would be had the holder of public power, in similar circumstances, been a different individual and not this president … Reduced to its essential elements, this case is an attempt to create a sense of impunity for the president and to assert that he is above the applicable law.”
Ramaphosa will return to the high court in Pretoria on February 4 and 5.
Parliamentary speaker Thandi Modise and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shamila Batohi have joined his case.
In Modise’s case, this is because the report calls on her to demand that Ramaphosa reveals all the donors of his CR17 campaign, as well as to refer the president to the joint committee on ethics and members’ interests
Batohi joins because as part of her remedial action, Mkhwebane also called on Batohi to “take note” of her report and “conduct further investigation into the prima facie evidence of money laundering as uncovered during my investigation”.
This prompted Batohi to ask Mkhwebane whether there had been a “misunderstanding” about the “independent mandates about our respective offices”.
As well as finding he had misled parliament about the Bosasa donation, Mkhwebane’s report found that he was involved in potential money laundering related to the campaign.
Business Day reported in August last year that Ramaphosa said in the papers that there was no factual foundation for suspicions of a prima facie money laundering case, accusing Mkhwebane of having shown a serious lack of understanding of the law by legally conflating money-laundering with corruption.
“Corruption and money-laundering are two legally distinct concepts. By confusing these two statutes, the public protector has shown a grave misunderstanding of the law,” he is reported as saying, adding that he found this “gravely concerning”.
Ramaphosa accused Mkhwebane of having acted “outside of her authority” in the court papers, and of lacking the jurisdiction to investigate money paid to his CR17 campaign.
The president argued that these were simply “donations made to a campaign,” and don’t implicate the state or presidency in any way.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)