Presidency, speaker welcome CR17 judgment, Busisiwe Mkhwebane not so happy
The presidency on Tuesday welcomed the judgment passed by the high court in Pretoria, which set aside findings and remedial action of the public protector into whether the president violated the executive ethics code.
The high court set aside public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings that President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament about the donation he received from Bosasa.
“We find [Mkhwebane] did not only commit a material misdirection in her legal approach [to the issue of misleading parliament], but also reached an irrational and unlawful conclusion on the facts before her,” judge Elias Matojane said on Tuesday, delivering a scathing judgment on behalf of a full bench of the high court.
Ramaphosa had asked the court to review and set aside the report and remedial action based on Mkhwebane’s investigation. The matter was heard in early February.
“The court reaffirmed the president’s assertion that there was no factual basis for the public protector’s finding that the president misled parliament in relation to a donation made to the CR17 campaign from Mr Gavin Watson of African Global Operations,” presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said.
She said the court further found the public protector had no jurisdiction to investigate the CR17 campaign, that the president was not obliged to make disclosure of the donations received by the CR17 campaign, and that the public protector had no foundation in fact and in law to arrive at a conclusion that the president had involved himself in unlawful activities.
“The presidency welcomes the settlement of this matter and reaffirms its commitment to honest and effective governance,” Diko said.
Speaking immediately after the court judgment, the public protector’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said it would not be advisable for the public protector to offer a knee-jerk reaction.
“It will be proper for her to rally her legal team and study the ruling, understand it, especially the reasoning behind what the full bench said.
“At that point, she will be in a position to opine substantively on the judgment as well as indicate what the next step for her will be,” Segalwe said.
Segalwe said Mkhwebane thought her counsel representing her a month ago put forward her case in a very strong manner.
“She was not anticipating this kind of a ruling. It is a disappointing judgment,” Segalwe said.
Segalwe said Mkhwebane respected the judiciary as well as the judiciary’s authority to make this kind of ruling.
“But, of course respecting a ruling does not mean you must agree with it. You can hold a different view and you have all these other avenues to explore,” Segalwe said.
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise also welcomed the high court judgment.
Modise was cited as the second respondent in the case.
She limited her application to the remedial actions and monitoring mechanisms directed at the speaker of the National Assembly by the public protector.
Modise had asked the court to review, declare invalid and set aside these remedial actions and monitoring measures, on the basis that they were unlawful.
In a statement, parliament said the remedial actions by the public protector were founded on an erroneous comprehension of the ethical code of conduct and disclosure of members’ interests and its scope of application and, thus, made their implementation impractical.
“The court agreed the speaker did not have the powers to instruct the president to disclose in the register of members’ interests the donations received by the CR17 campaign as the code primarily applied to serving members of parliament.
“President Ramaphosa ceased to be a member when he was elected president in February 2018,” parliament said.