Protecting the public from Cyril – Busisiwe’s latest move

In what is probably her most politically effective probe yet, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has given President Cyril Ramaphosa until Friday next week to answer charges that the discredited Bosasa company donated R500,000 to his internal party election campaign. He delivers his State of the Nation address the day before and last month backtracked on his denial, saying instead that he had no knowledge of it and it would be returned. Given Mkhwebane’s previous bumbling of probes, if Ramaphosa is being a stranger to the truth, she’ll probably be hard put to prove it. He’s been sitting on her notice to reply for 13 days. This will surely spur his lawyers into a response. Mkhwebane’s interim finding is that Ramaphosa violated the constitution and may have been party to money laundering when his campaign to win control of the ruling party accepted a donation from Bosasa. Now called African Global Operations, it had business dealings with Ramaphosa’s son and allegedly paid bribes to cabinet ministers and senior government officials to win fat state contracts. The family connection would have tainted, but not hobbled Ramaphosa. This has far more serious implications, winning silent applause from Zuptoids in his party. – Chris Bateman

Ramaphosa gets deadline to answer South African graft report

By Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) – South African anti-graft ombudsman Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she’s given President Cyril Ramaphosa until June 21 to respond to a probe she conducted into a campaign donation he received from a company that’s been implicated in paying bribes to senior officials. The rand fell.

Ramaphosa received notification on May 30 about the preliminary outcome of the investigation, which will be finalised once he has given input, Mkhwebane said in a letter to Mmusi Maimane, the leader of main opposition Democratic Alliance, which requested the probe. She has yet to decide whether to accede to a request by the president to cross-examine witnesses.

Johannesburg’s Sunday Independent newspaper reported on May 9 that Mkhwebane had found that Ramaphosa violated the constitution and may have been party to money laundering when his campaign to win control of the ruling party accepted a donation from services company Bosasa. The company, now called African Global Operations, had business dealings with Ramaphosa’s son and was implicated during a judicial probe of paying bribes to cabinet ministers and senior government officials in order to win state contracts.

Rand slumps

An already bad day for the rand got even worse following the release of Mkhwebane’s letter. The currency snapped its three-day winning streak, dropping as much as 1.1% before paring the decline to trade 0.6% down at 14.7591 per dollar by 1pm in Johannesburg.

“It could be a source of uncertainty for the market and could also potentially slow down or at least distract President Ramaphosa from focusing on the implementation of economic reforms,” said Piotr Matys, a currency strategist at Rabobank in London.

Ramaphosa last year denied receiving money from Bosasa but backtracked a few days later, telling lawmakers saying he was unaware of the R500,000 ($33,832) payment, which would be returned. South Africa’s Presidency confirmed receipt of the graft ombudsman’s notice and said Ramaphosa will fully co-operate with the investigation.

“This is an embarrassing situation for Ramaphosa, who wants the issue sorted out as quickly as possible,” said Melanie Verwoerd, an independent political analyst. “The fact that the Public Protector’s deadline is one day after the president is due to deliver his state-of-the-nation address to Parliament puts additional political pressure on him.”

Credibility crisis

The Public Protector’s office has faced a credibility crisis since Mkhwebane succeeded Thuli Madonsela in 2016. The High Court has accused her of bias, almost a third of the reports she’s delivered are facing legal challenges and civil-rights groups say she’s brought the office into disrepute.

Mkhwebane has also been accused of injecting herself into political spats between feuding ruling-party factions, targeting officials loyal to Ramaphosa while failing to investigate those allied to his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Mkhwebane, a lawyer and former analyst at the state security agency, has rejected the criticism, saying it is partly directed at undermining her investigations. Under the constitution, the Public Protector gets a non-renewable seven-year term and can only be removed from office if the National Assembly finds – through a two-thirds majority vote – that she is guilty of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.

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