Ramaphosa must open up books

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing his first real test of his commitment to clean governance as head of state.

The controversy surrounding the R500000 donation to his election campaign for the ANC
by controversial company Bosasa, which relies heavily on state business, has put an uncomfortable spotlight on Ramaphosa and the public perception of him as "Mr Clean".

His initial handling of the matter - telling parliament that the money was a consultation fee for work done by his son Andile for Bosasa, and then revealing that actually the money was for his election campaign -has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

Understandably, many more find it hard to accept the president's explanation of the answer he gave in parliament to a question asked by DA leader Mmusi Maimane. He says he was not aware that Bosasa had made a donation towards his campaign.

The relationship between money and political power, as one former Ghanaian president once remarked, is as old as politics itself. It would be naive to believe election campaigns are run without contributions from business people and entities.

Without private sector funding, Ramaphosa's campaign in last year's ANC presidential race would probably have not stood any chance. However, the fact that there is a legitimate reason for campaign teams to raise funds from the private sector does not mean that this should be done without scrutiny and accountability.

While we applaud Ramaphosa for pledging to pay back the money he received from Bosasa because of the controversies linked to the company, we believe he should go a step further.

He should become the first political leader to open his campaign books so that the public would know who funded his campaign and whether, in return, they were getting any favours from the government he leads. While at that, the president should also encourage the ANC to follow suit so that political party funding finally becomes public. The opposition should also do the same.

By taking such steps, Ramaphosa would have gone a long way in ensuring clean governance and helping SA avoid being captured again.