ConCourt hearing on Bosasa donation report

Mkhwebane's lawyers argue Ramaphosa misled parliament

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Image: MIKE HUTCHINGS

Lawyers representing public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane have urged the Constitutional Court not to ignore false information that President Cyril Ramaphosa gave in relation to a Bosasa donation, even if he later corrected himself.

Muzi Sikhakhane, for Mkhwebane, was extensively questioned on Thursday on why Mkhwebane, having seen the “error” response that Ramaphosa gave parliament and the second one in which he corrected himself, still felt the head of state had misled the legislature.

Mkhwebane is at the Constitutional Court applying for leave to appeal an earlier ruling of the high court which set aside her report into Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign for money laundering.

In July last year,  Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa misled parliament in his response to a question about a R500,000 donation from Bosasa for his presidential campaign.

Then DA leader Mmusi Maimane filed a complaint with Mkhwebane, asking her to investigate whether Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament in 2018 when he initially said the R500,000 was paid to his son Andile as part of a legitimate business transaction.

Ramaphosa later returned to parliament and confirmed that the money was for his presidential campaign.

Mkhwebane maintains that Ramaphosa had a duty to disclose the donations raised by the campaign that saw him elected ANC president at the party's elective conference in December 2017.

Justice Rammaka Mathopo said it seems as if Mkhwebane did not accept the correction that Ramaphosa made after making an error to parliament.

“She characterised that as a conduct of someone who deliberately misled parliament. I have a problem with that approach. Somebody says I have erred, I am now seeking to correct my error and the person is held to his first initial response to say the kite has flown, you can’t call it back,” said Mathopo.

But Sikhakhane opposed this view, arguing that Ramaphosa made an error by suggesting that the money was just for a business transaction while it was not.

“Objectively we must first accept that at the time he makes the statement, what he said was incorrect. We don’t have to look at it from a sympathetic eye at all. Factually and objectively, the president told parliament what was not true.

“It is not correct to suggest that because he came back, at that time he made the statement, it is unreasonable to conclude that it was incorrect and false,” Sikhakhane said.

Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga told Sikhakhane that Ramaphosa’s first response to parliament had everything to do with the question asked by Maimane.

“The focus of that question was the payment to the president’s son, not to the CR17 campaign…That goes to the very important issue of willful misleading,” Madlanga said.

But Sikhakhane would not have it, describing Madlanga’s statement as sympathetic.

“The facts don’t change…It was open to the president to say I do not know what you’re talking about. It was open to the president to say I’m unable to answer the question now because I need to go back and do my research…

"The point I’m making is that the question by Mr Maimane, whether accurate or not, can be no explanation of a wrong fact put by the president in response,” Sikhakhane argued.

The hearing continues.

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