Flash Briefing: PP Judicial Review; Boris 1/33; UK/Iran red zone; Naspers SA tax R6.9bn

By Alec Hogg

  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested an urgent judicial review into a report by the country’s Public Protector which he termed “fundamentally and irretrievably flawed.” The report attacks Ramaphosa over a donation by the owner of Bosasa to his 2017 campaign to be elected president of the ANC. The now liquidated Bosasa has been exposed in the Zondo commission of inquiry as having corrupted public servants to secure inflated state tenders. Ramaphosa told a press conference last night the Public Protector’s report is irrational, contains numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature, has no sound legal basis and did not apply the requirement of being fair and impartial. He said it should be a matter of concern for all South Africans that the Public Protector should make such findings against the head of state and that the president nor the Public Protector are above the law. As a result, Ramaphosa has requested that the courts deal urgently with this matter. A judicial review relates to the power of the courts to scrutinise and set aside administrative decisions or rules. The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, was appointed in 2016 by former president Jacob Zuma. The courts have overturned several of her rulings and rebuked her for exceeding her constitutional mandate. The Sunday Times reported yesterday that Mkhwebane has warned Parliament against her early removal from office, threatening to go to court to protect her position.
  • Britain’s decision to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar earlier this month is snowballing, dragging the country deeper into an escalating crisis between Iran and the West. On Friday Iran retaliated by seizing a British-flagged oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, landing soldiers onto the ship and taking over control from the 23-man crew after claiming the tanker had collided with a fishing vessel. The tanker, the Stena Impero, arrived in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on Saturday with its 23 crew members still on board. The UK Parliament will be presented with as yet unspecified measures. Although foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said military action is not yet warranted, he said the seizure of a British ship in Oman waters and forced into Iranian waters was “totally and utterly unacceptable.” Hunt is lagging badly in the two-horse race with Boris Johnson to become the UK’s next Prime Minister. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to Hunt with a tweet which read: “unlike the piracy in the Strait of Gibraltar, our action is to uphold international maritime rules.”
  • The Iranian drama is one of two big stories dominating British media with the other being tomorrow’s announcement of its new Prime Minister. Voting by 160,000 Conservative Party members closes tonight with former Foreign Secretary and London Mayor Boris Johnson the sizzling hot favourite to succeed Theresa May, who stepped down on June 7. Bookmakers make him an absolute certainty offering a return of just £1 for every £33 wagered on Ladbrokes, an implied probability of 97% that he will be elected. Johnson led the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union and once elected, is expected to follow a hard line in negotiations. The UK’s finance minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, yesterday said he would resign if Johnson wins. Johnson has said that if he cannot get a new deal past the EU, Britain would simply exit the union on October 31, signalling the no-deal hard Brexit which economists warn will severely hurt the UK economy.
  • South African share prices edged higher on Friday, with the JSE All Share index ending the week 2% firmer. The currency settled below R14 to the US Dollar and around R17.50 against the Pound. The JSE’s dominant stock, Naspers, which issued its annual report on Friday, closed the week 1.6% firmer. Naspers disclosed in the review that revenue from its South African media assets, which employ almost 3,600 staff, fell 36% to $326m in the year to end March, with the unit delivering a trading loss of $14m. Despite the recent unbundling of its pay TV business MultiChoice, the group said it remains committed to the country and will invest R4.6bn into the South African businesses over the next three years. Naspers also disclosed that in the financial year it paid and collected R6.9bn in taxes for the South African Treasury – 41% of the total taxes it paid globally.
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