Public protector's findings were wrong and irrational, says Cyril Ramaphosa

21 July 2019 - 18:59 By Qaanitah Hunter
President Cyril Ramaphosa told a press briefing on Sunday that public protector Busiswe Mkhwebane’s report exceeded the scope of her office and alleged that she acted unconstitutionally.
President Cyril Ramaphosa told a press briefing on Sunday that public protector Busiswe Mkhwebane’s report exceeded the scope of her office and alleged that she acted unconstitutionally.
Image: SIMPHIWE NKWALI/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday that public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings against him were wrong in law and irrational - and that was why he had decided to take the report on an urgent judicial review. 

Addressing the media, Ramaphosa said Mkhwebane’s report exceeded the scope of the office of the public protector and he alleged she had acted unconstitutionally.

“After careful study I have concluded that the report is fundamentally and irretrievably flawed,” he said, adding: “The report contains numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature, the findings that are found are wrong in law, are irrational and in some instances, exceed the scope of the powers of the public protector."

President Cyril Ramaphosa held a press conference at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on July 21 2019 to reply to public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane's report that found he violated the ethics code.

Mkhwebane first found that Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National Assembly when he was asked about a donation made to his ANC election campaign by Bosasa which has been implicated in serious corruption in the ongoing state capture commission. She also found that Ramaphosa was in breach of the provisions of the Executive Ethics Code and the constitution.

But Ramaphosa said he decided to review the report because of its deficiencies.

“I have instructed my legal representatives to prepare a legal application to this effect as a matter of urgency. And given the gravity of this matter and appreciating the effect these findings have on the standing and the credibility on both the president and the public protector, it is essential that the courts be given an opportunity to review the report and make a finding accordingly,” he said.

Mkhwebane recommended that parliament take action within 30 days of the release of her report and that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, ensure that Ramaphosa releases the list of all the people who donated to his CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency.

Ramaphosa argued that Mkhwebane acted inconsistently with the constitution because he was not given an opportunity to comment on the remedial action against him.

He said he would resort to an independent review of the report by the courts.

Ramaphosa said he was doing this to preserve the integrity of his office as president and not out of disrespect for her office.

He would not comment on whether he thought Mkhwebane’s report was borne out of malice, repeating that he had immense respect for her office.

“My decision to seek a judicial review of this report should by no means be seen as a comment on the person who occupies this office, the competence or motives of the public protector. This is motivated instead by a determination that the law should be applied correctly and consistently,” Ramaphosa said, adding that both he as president and the public protector were not above the law.

The president hinted that he would argue in court that Mkhwebane did not have jurisdiction and had acted out of the scope of her powers when she investigated other donations to his CR17 campaign when she found that the movement of money pointed to money laundering.

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