August 12, 2019 / 10:05 AM / 7 days ago

South Africa's Ramaphosa wins latest round of legal fight with anti-corruption watchdog

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - President Cyril Ramaphosa won the latest round of a legal battle with South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog on Monday, as a judge delayed implementation of findings linked to its claim that he misled parliament about a leadership campaign donation.

Cyril Ramaphosa speaks after taking the oath of office at his inauguration as South African president at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, South Africa May 25, 2019. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane alleged in July that Ramaphosa had “deliberately misled” parliament about the 500,000 rand ($32,500) donation for the 2017 campaign to succeed Jacob Zuma as head of the governing African National Congress.

She said there was also prima facie evidence of money laundering involving millions of rand in the handling of donations for the campaign. [nL8N24K2QE]

Ramaphosa called her report flawed and, in Monday’s High Court challenge against it, was granted an interdict against implementation of the watchdog’s findings while he appeals.

The saga has proven a headache for Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on cleaning up institutionalised corruption and reviving Africa’s most developed economy, providing ammunition for enemies including an ANC faction loyal to Zuma.

Mkhwebane did not oppose Ramaphosa’s application for an interdict. She has lost several cases in which she has sought to force the implementation of disciplinary action before appeals against her findings were heard.

The president’s supporters say Mkhwebane is acting as a proxy for the pro-Zuma ANC faction. She denies playing politics and says she is simply holding senior officials to account.

The case being reviewed on Monday followed complaints to the watchdog in November by opposition lawmakers that Ramaphosa had violated the executive ethics code over a donation to his son, Andile, by Gavin Watson, CEO of services company Bosasa.

Ramaphosa told parliament at that time that the money was obtained legally for services he provided, but he later amended this by saying the payment was a donation towards his campaign.

On Thursday, Ramaphosa won a separate a case also involving Mkhwebane when a judge ruled he had acted reasonably in not immediately disciplining Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, a political ally of the president, over a decision linked to retirement of a tax official in 2010.

Her office had sought to discipline Gordhan after concluding he had wrongly approved an early retirement package for the official, before allowing him to be re-employed on a contract basis. Gordhan is appealing those findings, and Ramaphosa now does not need to take action against Gordhan while the case is ongoing.

($1 = 15.3425 rand)

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by John Stonestreet

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