Ramaphosa in desperate fight to defend his presidency

South Africa - Cape Town - 20 June 2019 - President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address (Sona). Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

South Africa - Cape Town - 20 June 2019 - President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, delivers his 3rd State of the Nation Address (Sona). Picture: Phando Jikelo / African News Agency (ANA)

Opposition parties and detractors from within the ANC have both been emboldened by the public protector’s recent report.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is in a last stand battle for his presidency as opposition parties and internal ANC detractors smell blood over the Public protector’s report on his statements to parliament over a payment from Bosasa.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane had originally found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National assembly on November 6 last year when he claimed to know nothing about a donation to his campaign from Bosasa. The public protector explained she believed him to be in breach of the Executive Ethics Code due to the fact that he “should have allowed himself sufficient time to research a well-informed response”.

While the president is likely to interdict the implementation of the report, its mere presence has been enough to strengthen his enemies from within the party and embolden those opposition parties who have seen a decrease in support from when Zuma was president.

Zuma’s detractors in the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) have vowed to resist any attempt to remove Mkhwebane from her position, which would allegedly come about due to her perceived lack of fitness for the position. Lead by supporters of former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Ramaphosa’s ANC opponents have made it clear through members such as Tony Yengeni that any attempt to remove Mkhwebane will be strongly resisted.

“The  NEC will be divided on the matter of removing the public protector,” said one anonymous Ramaphosa detractor to the City Press on Sunday, “There will be those who say she will go, but it won’t work. Some of us have already said publicly that it should not happen … There are many of us who have not gone public yet with our view. But we won’t allow it.”

Meanwhile, three main opposition parties the DA, Cope and EFF have called for parliamentary processes to be followed to discipline the president, while the African Transformation Movement (ATM) has called on him to resign.

EFF, DA and COPE have asked Speaker Thandi Modise to begin actions against the president with DA leader Mmusi Maimane saying his party would also lay criminal charges of money laundering against the president.

“Firstly, it appears that a criminal syndicate is being alluded to in the public protector’s report and as such a criminal process must be pursued,” he said adding that the DA would lay charges against Ramaphosa, the CR17 campaign and the attorney’s trust account involved in the campaign.

Ramaphosa is not shying away from the fight and in his 51-page response to the public protector’s office before the release of her final report, Ramaphosa condemned each of the points made against him. Ramaphosa further made it clear that he had no knowledge of the questionable donation that was made to his CR17 election campaign nor indeed the route by which the money ended up in the CR17 account.

Instead, his lawyers have suggested that any people who would make claims against Ramaphosa for money-laundering through the CR17 account should look instead to Bosasa boss Gavin Watson.

“If there is any basis for the public protector’s suspicion, the suspects would be Mr Watson (who routed his donation through Miotto trading) and Mr Venter (who in turn made the transfer to CR17)” Ramaphosa’s attorneys said, referring to Peet Venter, Bosasa’s former auditor.

Ramaphosa’s lawyers throw further fuel onto the flames of the debate by stating, “The public protector interviewed all three of them (additionally referencing Margaret Longworth, the owner of Miotto trading and Peet Venter’s sister) but chooses not to disclose the explanation they gave for routing the donation via Miotto trading. It means that she either did not ask them, or that she asked them but chose not to disclose their answers… If the public protector harboured any suspicion and interviewed the suspects it would be very odd for her not to ask them for an explanation.”

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