Round and round the public protector merry-go-round goes and where – or when – it stops, nobody knows.
This time, it’s a war of words between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, some members of the Democratic Alliance (DA), party leader Mmusi Maimane, and President Cyril Ramaphosa’s former campaigners.
Ramaphosa’s 2017 campaign for the ANC presidency is under scrutiny by Mkhwebane and according to the Sunday Times, about R400 million in three bank accounts allegedly linked to Ramaphosa is being questioned.
This was after Maimane laid a complaint with the public protector’s office over the R500,000 “donation” to Ramaphosa’s campaign. He eventually acknowledged it came from African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa).
“The nature of the payment, passing through several intermediaries, does not accord with a straightforward donation and raises the suspicion of money laundering,” the DA leader alleged to Mkhwebane on November 23.
Both Maimane and Mkhwebane released the same letter of complaint yesterday after Business Day ran a story saying “the DA” had denied raising the money laundering complaint.
Both denied the complaint was a surprise to either party, after DA’s communications head Graham Charters told Business Day he had been “… informed by the PP [public protector] … the scope of the investigation had widened to include money laundering”.
Soon after the said article appeared, Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe fired a broadside at both the DA and Ramaphosa campaign managers, saying the public protector was “dumbfounded” at claims she “was never asked to investigate allegations of money laundering in relation to the African Global Operations donation to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for governing party presidency”.
Yesterday, Maimane said “… at no stage has the DA distanced itself from this investigation or the contents thereof”, effectively undercutting Charters. “Rather, we’ve been explicitly clear in our call for the matter to be finalised, and for parliament to establish an ad hoc committee to consider the report and its findings – as it did with the Nkandla report.”
Meanwhile, former campaign manager for Ramaphosa, Bejani Chauke, said there was no reason for the money laundering suspicions.
“The CR17 campaign was funded by a broad range of individuals from across South Africa who supported the objectives of the campaign.
“These funds were paid into accounts established for this purpose and were used to cover the costs of the campaign such as stipends, travelling, communications and promotional material, meeting venues and accommodation,” he added. “In the process, all legal and regulatory requirements were met.”
Last week, parliament Speaker Thandi Modise said DA chief whip John Steenhuisen’s request that parliament initiate removal proceedings against Mkhwebane would be referred to the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services for consideration.