The president has stopped short of outright blaming the public protector and her office for the leak, but only just.
In a statement on Saturday, the presidency confirmed that confidential banking information about the contributors to and recipients from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign had been leaked to the media.
Spokesperson Khusela Diko said the information, supposedly held only by the public protector, included bank statements of third parties, which had recorded private transactions and which were “strictly confidential”.
Laws that may compel public office bearers and parties to declare significant campaign donations have not yet been enacted in South Africa.
“The Presidency notes with grave concern what amounts to a violation of the constitutionally enshrined right to privacy. This is all the more troubling as it seems clear that this information had been, from the first instance, obtained in an illegal manner,” said Diko.
Yesterday, Ramaphosa’s lawyers asked for some information about his donors to be kept confidential in the ongoing court case between Ramaphosa and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, as he has taken her findings and recommendations about his Bosasa donation and other donations on legal review.
“The legal representatives of President Cyril Ramaphosa have requested the Court that certain information contained in the record of the Public Protector’s investigation into allegations against the President not be made public. This request is pending a determination on whether the information was obtained lawfully and whether it was lawfully sourced in relation to the complaint under investigation.
“It should be noted that, should the request be granted, nothing prevents the Court from deciding, once it has established the lawfulness of the source of documents and the appropriateness of it being included in the record, that some or all of the information should be made public.”
Diko said the “selective circulation of this banking information” was intended to cast aspersions on the president, and followed the recent report of the public protector, in which there was a “substantial focus on the funding of the CR17 campaign”.
“Neither the president nor the campaign has done anything wrong, ethically or legally. It is a common and accepted practice in South Africa and across the world for parties and candidates to raise funding from donors for campaigns.
“From the outset, the CR17 campaign team and the candidate agreed that this should be a clean campaign that operated within the necessary legal prescripts and in line with the values and principles of their organisation.
“It was agreed that the campaign would raise funds from private individuals who supported the effort to restore the integrity and cohesion of the ANC and to put South Africa back on a path of growth and transformation, with an explicit understanding that their contribution would earn them no special favours or undue advantage.
“Funds were raised from a broad cross-section of South African society, sometimes with the help of supportive individuals who had access to various networks. More than a hundred individuals made contributions to the campaign according to their means. The donations were made on a confidential basis.”
Mkhwebane had suggested in her report that Ramaphosa may have been given more than R400 million by donors, though Ramaphosa’s legal papers allege she massively miscalculated the funding since she allegedly got the opening dates of the accounts wrong and did not take account of inter-account transfers and interest payments in making her calculations.
Diko said the president had indicated in both the response to the Section 7(9) notice from the public protector as well as in his founding affidavit to the court that the funds had been used to support a range of campaign activities including mobilisation, communication, research, security, administration, logistical support (travel and accommodation) as well as stipends and salaries.
“Funds were also provided to co-ordinators in provinces throughout South Africa. The coordinators used these funds to organise meetings and rallies, arrange transport, hire venues, provide accommodation, etc.”
She said the president wanted to assure the South African public that CR17 was run as a clean campaign and “in the spirit of some of this country’s rich democratic traditions- namely accountability, honesty, and integrity”.
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