S. African president challenges public protector over election donation scandal
CAPE TOWN, July 21 (Xinhua) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday challenged Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane over her allegations that he violated the Executive Ethics Code.
Mkhwebane's report to this effect "contains numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature," Ramaphosa said.
On Friday, Mkhwebane released the report about her investigation into a controversial donation worth 500,000 rand (about 36,000 U.S. dollars) to the president's election campaign fund.
The donation was made by Bosasa company, also known as African Global Operations, to Ramaphosa's campaign team in 2017 to fund his African National Congress (ANC) presidential campaign. Ramaphosa was deputy president then.
Mkhwebane found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled Parliament in November last year when he said in the House that he did not know the details of the donation his campaign office received.
Ramaphosa said at that time that the donation was in fact payment for services to his son's company.
But in the report, Mkhwebane rejected Ramaphosa's claim, saying the president is duty-bound to declare funds deposited into his campaign account because he personally benefitted from the Bosasa donation.
Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa ought to have declared all the funds received for his campaign as some of the money collected through Ramaphosa's campaign account was transferred to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation account.
Ramaphosa's explanation that he did not know about the donors and donations "is false," Mkhwebane said.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Ramaphosa said Mkhwebane's findings "are wrong in law, are irrational and, in some instances, exceed the scope of the powers of the Public Protector."
Her report "is fundamentally and irretrievably flawed," Ramaphosa said.
Furthermore, the president said, Mkhwebane failed to provide him with an opportunity to comment on proposed remedial action, thus violating provisions of the Public Protector Act, the Constitution and principles of common law.
Given these deficiencies, and consistent with the constitutional architecture, it is appropriate that the courts make a final and impartial determination on this matter, said Ramaphosa.
"I have therefore decided to seek an urgent judicial review of the Public Protector's report, its findings and remedial action," the president said.
He said he has instructed his legal representatives to prepare an application to this effect as a matter of urgency.
Given the gravity of this matter - and appreciating the effect that these findings have on the standing and credibility of both the President and the Public Protector - it is essential that the courts be given an opportunity to review the report and to find accordingly, Ramaphosa said.
"I am taking this action in the firm belief that the President is not above the law, and nor is the Public Protector," he added.