Analysis

What Is Democracy? Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng Asks

By Pinky Khoabane

A day before Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane released a damning report on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the money involved in his ascendency to the leadership of the ANC, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng gave a speech of monumental importance about the state of affairs of our country. The Public Protector found the President had breached the Executive Ethics Code in raising funds for his leadership battle, bringing into sharp focus the role of campaign funders and their influence on the outcome of an election. 

The President denies violating the Executive Ethics Code; says he was not operating the committee that was raising funds for his campaign, was not aware of the donors and is not expected by the Code to declare the CR17 campaign funds. As a member, he is only required to disclose his financial interests and those of his dependent children, he maintains. 

There’s a discrepancy between the PP’s report and the President’s response with regards to the amount that was raised for Ramaphosa’s ascendency to power. Mkhwebane says R441million was deposited into Ramaphosa’s campaign which the President disputes and sets at R308million. 

In his response to Mkhwebane, the President sets out the vision of the CR17 campaign which seeks to suggest that it was bigger than just a win. It was about renewal of the ANC and promoting unity. 

The campaign was well resourced in terms of the number of people who worked in the CR17 committee. It had a national office, various structures – national co-ordinator, project manager, finance, communication, etc  – stuff smaller parties, with less financially connected people only dream of. 

Those working on the campaign were themselves well off. James Motlatsi donated R100,000.00 and later R500 000.00. Donne Nicol made several donations, first R350,000, later R10,000, R300,000 and  R300,000 as a loan. Sifiso Dabengwa donated R500,000.

The President himself made several donations: 

  • R200,000 in 2016
  • R1,000,000 January 2017
  • R5,000,000 in September 2017 
  • R20,000,000 as a loan in November 2017
  • R10,000,000 as a loan in December 2017
  • R1,000,000 in July 2018
  • R5,000,000 paid to Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation for a media campaign

President Ramaphosa’s response to PP https://www.scribd.com/document/419040094/The-President-s-Response-to-the-Public-Protector#download&from_embed

CJ Mogoeng asks: “Im in the habit these days of asking myself ‘but what is democracy? A government of the people, by the people, for the people? Does it continue to be so even if you stand no chance of winning the elections unless you are connected to the financially well resourced? And if they fund you to the point where you succeed and win and become a government, are you not captured in advance?

“So we need to think deep about how capture happens. There’s no free lunch and never for the millions…..If I begin to to give you millions, whether I set you up in business or in government, ah there will be pay back time. Why should I make you a multimillionaire? Why? 

“Why do I prefer you over others? Why?

“It’s an investment”.

One of the donors paid over R100m in three batches. What is his/her return on investment? Chief Justice Mogoeng says there is no free lunch. Writing on Twitter, former DA leader Tony Leon claims to know a donor who had paid R30m into the campaign but would be regretting it given that the policy of expropriation of land without compensation was going through. 

The campaign mangers argue that the President doesnt know any of these donors but the campaign managers know them and as Leon says, there was an expectation from this R30m donor that a policy which was passed at the ANC conference would not succeed. 

There are certainly expectations from these donors. If the President doesnt know them, who will manage the expectations – those who know – the campaign managers? 

Does money matter in elections? There are those who say money changes everything and certainly makes a huge difference in political campaigns. The CR17 campaign for example, paid the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation R5,000,000 just for communication and PR. 

US based researchers, where billions of dollars are poured into political campaigns, acknowledge that those who spend the most amount of money on their campaigns stand a better chance of winning. However, they say there’s no guarantee. 

Wealthy candidates, like Ramaphosa, always have an advantage. He was able to fund his campaign for over R30million and was still able to raise over R308million. 

His opponent in the ANC leadership battle, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, currently serving in Ramaphosa’s cabinet, didn’t fare too badly against the President. He beat her by a small margin. 

What does that outcome mean for democracy? Did Dlamini-Zuma have financially powerful people who backed her too because as we know, this small group of campaign funders who want to influence elections to favour themselves, have a habit of donating to everyone – or did she rely on the will of the people? 

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