Mkhwebane hopes to sit and chat with Ramaphosa soon

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Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane revealed to City Press this Friday that she is hoping to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to “engage” and stop having all the issues between them communicated primarily in and through the media.

She said she felt vindicated by a statement this week from the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) that the information provided to her office about donations made to President Cyril Ramaphosa CR17 ANC leadership campaign had been lawful.

The body insisted on Wednesday that it had been mandated in law to assist the public protector with information when she requested it.

The FIC said that it was monitoring the legal fight between Ramaphosa and Mkhwebane and would seek permission to intervene in the case if the need arose.

Their statement was issued in response to allegations reportedly levelled against the FIC by Ramaphosa’s lawyers, who accused the body of breaking the law after they provided Mkhwebane with two years’ worth of bank statements.

According to Ramaphosa’s lawyers, the FIC was legally only allowed to provide access to banks’ private client information for the purposes of combating financial crimes, and they had also given more information than the scope of her investigation appeared to warrant.

Mkhwebane went on to use the bank statements provided as the basis for her finding that there was evidence of money laundering by the CR17 campaign in a report that is being challenged on judicial review.

Mkhwebane said on Friday, however, there is no truth in the belief that she is targeting Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Mkhwebane was giving the keynote address at a leadership dialogue hosted at the University of Johannesburg on Friday.

Chief among the topics she touched on were her court battles with Ramaphosa and Gordhan.

“Some of the major challenges are baseless accusations that I am involved in ANC factions, that I am biased in favour of one of the factions, and that I am targeting the president and the minister of public enterprises.

“The narrative is that I am part of the so-called ‘push back’ against efforts to fight corruption within state-owned enterprises, as supposedly spearheaded by the president and the minister [of public enterprises],” said Mkhwebane.

She said her reports on the so-called “rogue unit” at Sars, the Ivan Pillay payout and Ramaphosa’s Bosasa payment had been used as examples of this alleged fightback.

“Why should I turn a blind eye when I am furnished with complaints against them? Can I refuse to investigate? In terms of the Executive Members Ethics Act, I must investigate any alleged breaches of the Executive Code of Ethics,” Mkhwebane insisted.

She said the office she occupied was apolitical, but that sometimes it entered the realm of politics.

“As a result, we do not even know who belongs to which faction of the ANC. We hear from the media that this one is with that faction and so forth … [but] as you will see, I have made adverse findings against even those the media tell us belong to the faction we are accused today of protecting.”

Mkhwebane further claimed on Friday that the legal position regarding the powers her office enjoys has “radically changed”.

She said the judiciary had changed its position on the powers of her office since the years in which her predecessor, Thuli Madonsela, had been in charge.

She emphasised that her words should not be seen as disrespect for the courts.

She started off with the infamous Nkandla judgement, saying “the Constitutional Court held that the remedial action dispensed by the Public Protector is binding until or unless set aside by a court of law; [further], the Public Protector can direct the manner of implantation of the remedial action, and that compliance was not optional”.

She said in the State of Capture report judgment, the High Court had concluded that the Public Protector’s office could direct a state functionary to exercise powers only which were within the exclusive purview of that functionary.

“The court thus concluded that the Public Protector can direct the president to establish a commission of inquiry. In the report that led to the judgment, the Public Protector had directed the president, Parliament and the NPA to take certain actions.

“Furthermore, the court refused to grant an interdict to the president, citing that granting such an order will result in the unwarranted interference with an exercise of a statutory power.”

She said that, when she took over the office in 2017, the courts drifted away from these principles.

“As things stand now, for anyone to successfully challenge the powers of the Public Protector, all they need to do is show up to the court and they will be granted the relief they seek. This is how radically the legal position regarding the Public Protector has changed,” she said.

Citizen reporter/Edited by Charles Cilliers. Background reporting, News24