High Court rejects request to unseal Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign bank statements

President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has rejected with costs the EFF’s request to release President Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign bank statements to the public.

Economic freedom fighters approached the court to force the disclosure of the statements in an app linked to the invalidated report by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on the finances of the CR17 campaign.

During that litigation, Gauteng Deputy Judge Aubrey Ledwaba accepted a request from Ramaphosa’s lawyers to have bank statements sealed on the grounds that they contained confidential donor information.

EFF then challenged this decision.

While Ishmael Semenya SC, for EFF, tried to say that the party was not suggesting that there was anything “untoward” about campaign donations, he argued that when information that was supposed to be public was kept confidential, there was a danger that politicians would use the public service to promote benefactor programs.

Earlier this month, the Constitutional Court rejected Mkhwebane’s efforts to challenge the invalidation of his report on campaign finances.

Judge Chris Jafta, speaking for the majority of the Constitutional Court, ruled at the time that Mkhwebane’s conclusion that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament about a donation of R500,000 his campaign had received of the corruption accused by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson was legally and factually unsustainable.

Mkhwebane had also investigated the finances of Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign – and found that he had failed in his ethical duty to disclose donations made to his campaign to claim the ANC presidency. She found that some of the payments made to CR17 had raised a reasonable suspicion of money laundering and ordered Ramaphosa to disclose all of his CR17 donations to Parliament.

All these conclusions and directives have now been categorically rejected by the majority of the Constitutional Court.

Outgoing Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng issued a dissenting decision – in which he found, among other things, that Ramaphosa was required to disclose his CR17 donations. Mogoeng’s decision had no legal impact on the majority’s decision, which concluded otherwise.

Ramaphosa’s special advisor and member of his CR17 fundraising campaign, Bejani Chauke, had previously called the EFF case legally untenable and motivated by “narrow political ends.” Chauke further accused the EFF of “blindly” supporting Mkhwebane in his “unwarranted pursuit of the president” and said it appeared the party “was committed to pursuing what the Protector cannot pursue without s ’embarrassing herself and her office’.

Chauke said the statements in question were contained in a Financial Intelligence Center report that was “illegally filed” by Mkhwebane, in his unsuccessful attempt to defend the legality and validity of his report on the president’s campaign finance.