'I am not going to get into a wrestling match with the judiciary': Ramaphosa on Mogoeng’s CR17 comments

02 December 2023 - 13:36
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President Cyril Ramaphosa. GCIS.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. GCIS.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit back at retired chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng's remarks, saying he will not “get into a wrestling match with the judiciary”.

“I am not fully alive to what he said but he is the former chief justice and I have made it a point never to get into a wrestling match with the judiciary whether acting or no longer acting.

“That (Mogoeng’s statements) to me is not an issue,” Ramaphosa said on the sidelines of the UN Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Saturday. 

Ramahosa was responding to Mogoeng's scathing remarks on him for failing to disclose his CR17 campaign donors. Mogoeng, who retired in 2021, was referring to donations made to Ramaphosa’s presidential election bid in 2017.

While delivering an inaugural SAFM lecture on Wednesday, Mogoeng said the possibility of activating the transformative constitutionalism and legal machinery, and to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness, lies with the fundamentals of how one ascends to the highest position in a political party, and by extension to the highest offices of the state. 

“Who facilitates a politician’s upward mobility is a question that must necessarily and relentlessly exercise our minds. For the biting truth is that there is no free lunch in this world.”

Mogoeng said private funding of individuals in political parties and of political parties was an investment that was expected to yield handsome returns as soon as the beneficiaries rose to positions of sufficient authority to dole out favours and tenders. 

“And this is a well-researched reality by mature democracies like the US.” 

He said a compromised leader was more likely to compromise others as well.

“When people or entities other than the then-deputy president’s party gave him sponsorship or financial assistance for the purpose of realising his ultimate political dream he was, by accepting help or allowing others to accept help on his behalf, exposing himself to a situation involving the risk of conflict. 

“That sponsorship or financial assistance to help him rise to the highest political office is most likely to induce a favourable disposition towards those who stood by him when help was sorely needed ... and that is what the risk of conflict sought to be averted through these legal instruments or the duty to disclose entails.” 

Mogoeng added private funders do not thoughtlessly throw their resources around. They do so for a reason and strategically.

“Some pour in their resources because the policies of a particular party or independent candidate resonate with their world outlook or ideology. Others do so hoping to influence the policy direction of those they support to advance personal or sectional interests. 

“Money is the tool they use to secure special favours or selfishly manipulate those who are required to serve and treat all citizens equally.” 

Unchecked or secret private funding, including from other nations, could undermine the fulfilment of constitutional obligations by political parties or independent candidates and by extension the nation’s strategic objectives, sovereignty and ability to secure a “rightful place” in the family of nations, he said. 

“Our freely elected representatives cannot help build a free society if they are not themselves free of hidden potential bondage or captivation. 

“Why would anybody not want to know who is helping them and how reasonably practicable is that anyway? 

“And why would they want their benefactors to be unknown to parliament or the public?” 

He said Ramaphosa, therefore, had the duty to know, if he did not know already, who was funding his campaign and to disclose that personal benefit compositely as a benefit from the CR17 campaign as an entity and/or more appropriately from each donor with a specified amount.

During the course of an investigation into a R500,000 donation by Bosasa, former public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane concluded Ramaphosa failed to disclose donations made to him and his CR17 campaign during 2017 in his capacity as deputy president. 

Mkhwebane formed an opinion that some of the payments made raised a reasonable suspicion of money-laundering.

However, her report was set aside by the full bench of the Pretoria high court, and her appeal was dismissed by the Constitutional Court in 2021, but Mogoeng, then chief justice, penned a dissenting judgment, agreeing with her findings. 

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya echoed Ramaphosa’s sentiments, saying a court of law had made pronouncements on the issues raised by Mogoeng.

During a post-cabinet briefing this week minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said Mogoeng was ruling from the grave. 

“On the comments of Mogoeng, they are unfortunate because he had a minority judgment on that, and it’s unfortunate that he wants to rule and express a view from the grave,” said Ntshavheni. 


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