Analysis

Is AmaBhungane Trying to Catch “Enemies of the President” in their Application to Join CR17 Campaign Case?

By Pinky Khoabane

AMABUNGANE Centre for Investigative Journalism have applied to join President Cyril Ramaphosa’s High Court application against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to argue that the Executive Ethics Code ought to require the disclosure of internal party campaign finance contributions. They join the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) who have also applied to join the court case following Ramaphosa’s accusations that it had provided Mkhwebane with much more information than she had asked for in her investigation of Bosasa’s R500,000 donation to the CR17 campaign. 

The AmaB, as they call themselves in a media statement on their decision to join “the politically fraught battle between the president and the public protector” is to seek mandatory disclosure of donations made to political parties even in internal campaigns: “In our application amaBhungane does not seek to enter into the debate regarding the proper interpretation of the ethics code, but rather asks the court to find that, to the extent that the code is found not to cover such donations, it should; indeed the failure to provide for mandatory disclosure of such donations would render the code unconstitutional and invalid.

“That is because, as the CR17 campaign clearly showed, internal party campaigns are a huge business and donations can have a profound effect on the outcome – and therefore the leadership and direction of a ruling party.

“As we put it in our founding affidavit: “The risks inherent in non-disclosure threaten the very functioning of the democratic system. Unaccountable people and entities with unknowable resources bring potentially extraordinary influence to bear on policy and the elected officials they have sponsored.” The full statement is here https://amabhungane.org/stories/advocacy-release-amabhungane-weighs-in-on-cr17-dispute/

The statement wreaks of bias against Mkhwebane, positioning her as the villain who is part of a network of people sabotaging Ramaphosa’s administration. And it’s not too difficult to see whose side AmaBhungane’s is on. “…resistance to Ramaphosa’s administration has coalesced most starkly around the figure of Mkhwebane – widely perceived as sympathetic to Zuma – whose office has been used to launch a raft of complaints against Ramaphosa and some of his senior cabinet allies”, the statement reads. 

And in several posts on Twitter, Sam Sole of AmaBhungane explains:

The documents were leaked ages ago by enemies of the President. If @PublicProtectorwas part of that, she must account. But we are arguing those documents are of real public interest and should remain public”. 

 

“Because the leaks were very obviously designed to damage the president. Not every source is above reproach. That doesn’t mean their information is not valuable. But motives always have to be factored in”.

Sole says the “Public Protector’s Bosasa report is a mess. But we want to rescue something useful from it”. 

Whistleblowers vs Devious Leakers

In another post, Sole says: “You asked why I described the leakers as enemies of the president? The two things are not mutually exclusive. But it remains to be seen whether these were whistleblowers or something more sinister. Either way, the information is of public interest and should stay public”.

Establishment media have taken their cue from the President who accuses the Public Protector of having an ulterior motive in her investigations against him. In numerous articles the leaks have been reported as having been acquired unlawfully despite her explanation that she had acquired them from FIC. 

In her Bosasa report, the PP found that the President had not only misled parliament about the donation but his CR17 campaign, that catapulted him to the head of ANC presidency at Nasrec’s elective conference in 2017, had received hundreds of millions  of rands which passed through several bank accounts instead of going into one donations account. She concluded that there was therefore merit in the suspicion of money laundering. 

The FIC has disputed claims that there were signs of money laundering as it “could not identify any predicate offence” – it could find no suspicion of crime from which the money was sourced. 

AmaBhungane says it has joined the case in the name of transparency and it remains committed to protecting whistleblowers. “Not every source is above reproach. That doesn’t mean their information is not valuable. But motives always have to be factored in”. You be the judge as to what motives AmaBhungane has in this case. 

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