Ramaphosa Gets Interdict in South African Campaign Funding Probe

Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa secured another victory in his protracted battle with the nation’s graft ombudsman when the High Court granted him an interdict suspending her directive to parliament to censure him for failing to declare a campaign donation.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa misled lawmakers about a donation to his successful 2017 campaign to win control of the ruling party and instructed them to take action against him for violating the constitution and the executive ethics code. The president has challenged the finding in court, saying he didn’t know about the 500,000-rand ($32,450) payment, inadvertently failed to disclose it and rectified his mistake as soon as possible.

Mkhwebane didn’t oppose Ramaphosa’s application for the disciplinary action to be put on hold until the conclusion of review, a date for which has yet to be set. Ramaphosa last week also won a court interdict against the Public Protector’s directive that he discipline his Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan for irregularly granting a tax agency official early retirement when he was finance minister in 2010 until those findings are reviewed.

The Constitutional Court has found that Mkhwebane committed perjury and acted in bad faith during an investigation she conducted into a central bank bailout of a troubled lender, and civil-rights groups have accused her of siding with Ramaphosa’s opponents in a power struggle in the ruling party. She denies wrongdoing and accuses her critics of trying to derail her investigations.

On May 10, Ramaphosa said his lawyers had asked the courts to determine whether the Public Protector had illegally tapped confidential banking information from contributors to his campaign and recipients of the money, and that he wants the records sealed pending a determination. “The selective circulation of this banking information is clearly intended to cast aspersions on the president,” Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement. “Neither the president nor the campaign has done anything wrong, ethically or legally.”

Johannesburg’s Sunday Independent newspaper said it had accessed Ramaphosa records, including emails and financial statements, and identified several donors to his campaign, including several wealthy business leaders. It also named a number of the beneficiaries of the funds, including senior politicians, managers, strategists and a labor union group.

(Updates with Ramaphosa’s previous clashes with graft ombudsman starting in third parargaph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net, Alastair Reed, Karl Maier

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