Advocacy release: CR17 – court kicks transparency question into touch

Ruling in president versus protector matter a setback, but the game’s not over.

AmaBhungane notes today’s ruling in the CR17 matter, in which a high court bench threw out the public protector’s controversial investigation and findings on Cyril Ramaphosa’s internal campaign to become president of the ANC.

AmaB entered the case as an independent party, not to take sides with either side, but to ask the court to ensure its findings on the dispute would uphold transparency and the media’s right to inform the public.

We argued that, if the court found that the Executive Ethics Code did not require Ramaphosa – or any other member of the executive – to disclose the funding of internal leadership campaigns, the court should declare the code to be unconstitutional.

This would ensure that the code could be amended, paving the way for a more transparent system going forward.

The court did not accede to our plea, on technical grounds.

In its ruling, it said: “There is no doubt that amaBhungane’s case is founded on issues that are critical to our democracy and the constitutional project.

“It is unthinkable that anyone concerned with the proper functioning of our constitutional democracy would disagree with the broad principles outlined in their submissions. We certainly do not.“

The court also stressed that this did not mean the Executive Ethics Code was constitutional – simply that it was an argument for another day.

Today’s ruling turns the spotlight back on Parliament, which has yet to amend the ethics code for MPs to ensure internal campaign funding is publicly disclosed – despite findings in a similar case involving former DA leader Mmusi Maimane in 2017.

AmaBhungane has been engaging with Parliament regarding the Maimane matter and will use that as another front to achieve the same purpose of making internal campaign financing transparent.

AmaBhungane makes interventions like these as part of our advocacy mandate to help secure the information rights that are the lifeblood of investigative journalism. A more transparent system is vital to ensuring that journalists can better inform the public on the influence of money in politics.

AmaB will study today’s judgment with our legal team before taking any decision on next steps, including the possibility of an appeal.

And as always, we will continue in our reporting to dig wherever there are secret deals the public should know about, and bring these to light.

For further comment, please contact:
Murray Hunter, acting advocacy coordinator — 0726725468

*Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp.

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