South Africa: Ramaphosa Takes Public Protector to Court Over Accusations of Lying

Left: President Cyril Ramaphosa. Right: Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

The South African newspapers are all about President Cyril Ramaphosa's decision to launch a court challenge against claims by the public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane that he lied to Parliament.

The affair concerns a 36,000 euro donation he received from tycoon Gavin Watson, the CEO of African Global Operations firm, Bosasa during his 2017 campaign to become leader of the ruling African National Congress.

Cyril Ramaphosa called a press conference in Pretoria on Sunday to announce his decision to seek "an urgent judicial review" of the findings which he described as "fundamentally and irretrievably flawed".

The public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane claimed in the explosive report made public on Friday that Ramaphosa "deliberately misled the National Assembly" when he told lawmakers the payment was for consultancy work carried out by his son Andile.

Memory lapses?

Ramaphosa later admitted it was a donation towards his campaign, claiming that he had been misinformed, when quizzed about the issue by a member of parliament last November.

According to the Sowetan, Watson's name also came up during Thursday's hearing of the state capture inquiry, focusing on the corruption that marked government business under ousted President Jacob Zuma.

"Watson often told former president Jacob Zuma what to do and regularly had breakfast with his wives", said former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi in submissions made before South Africa's Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the newspaper reports.

Zuma cronies dreaming of sweet revenge?

For BusinessDay, Ramaphosa's decision to challenge the protector's report signalled the threat her findings pose to his presidency.

His reputation of being "Mr Clean" is at stake as well as his resolve to get South Africa on the right path after so many years of graft in government business, says Daniel Friedman, Editor of the online issue of the Johannesburg-based Citizen newspaper.

Friedman told RFI that even though Zuma is gone, his legacy in the ANC lives on.

"There are many of those who would like to see the back of Ramaphosa and who are definitely going to use these findings to try and lobby for him to be removed as leader of the ANC and then as South African President".

Flurry of accusations

While Cyril Ramaphosa got ready to fight with Mkhwebane, Mail and Guardian led with breaking news about her devastating defeat in an appeal she had filed before the Constitutional Court in a landmark case in which she was ordered to pay 900,000 rand as punitive personal costs.

Cape Times reports that in a scathing assessment of her report about corporate collusion, dating back to the apartheid era, between the South African Reserve Bank and the giant Bankorp lender, the court found that she had lied and used false documents to advance her cause.

"The Public Protector's entire model of investigation was flawed. She was not honest about her engagements during the investigation. In addition, she failed to engage with the parties directly affected by her remedial action before she published her final report. This type of conduct falls far short of the high standards required of her office," ruled the High Court.

Personal costs orders are not granted against public officials who conduct themselves appropriately, the justices," comments BusinessDay.

It never rains but pours

Mail and Guardian described the judgment is a major boost for public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who is litigating against Mkhwebane in two separate cases and has also accused her of acting in bad faith - an allegation to which she took great umbrage.

The Citizen'sDigital news editor, Daniel Friedman says that many are now accusing the public protector of fighting a political battle and of actually being secretly supportive of the Zuma faction within the ANC.

Meanwhile the Economic Freedom Fighters party of Julius Malema warned that whatever happens in the case they hoped taxpayers' money won't be used to finance the president's legal challenge to the public protector's report.

"This man is not different, at all, to Zuma. At all!" EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi pointed out in a tweet on Sunday night, according to the Citizen.

Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance says the constitutional court judgment against Mkhwebane strengthens the party's case to have her removed.

TheSowetan reports that in statement made in Cape Town Maimane also welcomed the decision by Ramaphosa to challenge the public protector's report against him.

But the publication reports that the DA leader still wants answers regarding Ramaphosa's campaign financing.

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