President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyer says the first citizen has recorded a “resounding victory” which was “entirely justified” against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Peter Harris spoke to the media after the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria handed down a scathing judgment against Mkhwebane on Tuesday.
The court set aside her report into Ramaphosa in which she found he deliberately misled Parliament regarding a Bosasa donation made to his CR17 campaign.
Harris said the court made a clear statement of its disapproval.
“The number of negative adjectives used to describe her conduct were significant – ‘unlawful’, ‘irrational’, ‘reckless’, ‘not showing partiality or an open mind’. I think those are a very sad reflection on the current occupier of the Office of the Public Protector,” Harris said.
“In fact, if it weren’t so tragic it would almost be a joke.”
Errors in law
The court ruled that Mkhwebane’s findings on Ramaphosa included material errors in law and that she did not have jurisdiction to investigate the donations for his ANC presidential campaign, News24 reported.
The court also set aside Mkhwebane’s remedial action which included directives to the speaker of Parliament and the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to further investigate the matter.
The finding that Ramaphosa violated the Executive Members’ Ethics Act because he failed to declare donations to Parliament was also set aside, with the court ruling he had no personal financial benefit from it.
Mkhwebane’s next move
Speaking to the media after the judgment, Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said Mkhwebane had not expected the ruling but respects the court’s decision.
He could not say whether the Public Protector would appeal the ruling but said Mkhwebane would study the judgment before planning her next move.
This is the third judgment in a big case that has not gone Mkhwebane’s way and she is staring down an inquiry into her fitness as Public Protector.
Segalwe said, however: “She does not believe the reason for wanting to stay in office must be based on the merits of her investigations or even the argument she brings before the court.”
He added that Mkhwebane has “no interest” in blocking the inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
“There are a lot of High Court judgments that get overturned by the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] and the CC [Constitutional Court],” Segalwe said.
“It can’t be that when a court decides there has been a misleading of the law here, irrationality here, therefore the person is not fit to hold office.”
In a statement released shortly after the judgment, the Presidency also welcomed the ruling.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said the office reaffirmed its commitment to honest and effective government.
“The court reaffirmed the assertion that there was no factual basis for the Public Protector’s findings that the president misled Parliament in relation to a donation made to the CR17 campaign from Mr. Gavin Watson of Africa Global Operations [previously Bosasa],” she said