Bank statements lodged by the public protector in the Pretoria high court relating to donations made to President Cyril Ramphosa’s CR17 campaign have been sealed from public access, after a request from the president.
Ramaphosa is seeking to review and set aside the public protector’s Bosasa report, which found that he misled Parliament about one of the donations and that he had a duty to disclose who the donors were to the campaign.
In a review application, a record of the decision under review — all the documents on which the decision was based — must be filed with the court in terms of Rule 53 of the court rules. Normally a rule 53 record is open to the public.
The Rule 53 record in this case is believed to reveal who the funders of the campaign were, and how much of the fundraising details Ramaphosa was aware of.
The president has consistently said he was kept at arms-length from the fundraising in the campaign.
Last week, his lawyers wrote to Pretoria high court Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba asking him to seal portions of the record from public access, saying they contained confidential third party information and that there was reason to believe that some may have been unlawfully obtained.
The request referred to “documents and / or information relating to the bank statements”. For now, the whole of the Rule 53 record has been sealed — to allow the president’s attorneys to go through it and identify which they are concerned about and revert to Ledwaba. However, the bank statements themselves are sealed for good, said the public protector’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe.
When Ramaphosa’s lawyers made the request to seal the record, they said that, according to the public protector’s report, she had said that she had subpoenaed bank statements from Absa but it has been reported in the media that Absa said it did not receive a subpoena.
“In addition, in the report, the public protector does not state that she subpoenaed the bank records from Standard Bank. Therefore, it is unclear how the Public Protector obtained the bank records,” the letter from Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys reads.
However, the Public Protector’s attorney Theo Seanago said the concern that the records were unlawfully obtained was “a very serious allegation against the public protector. Yet it is made without any reference to evidence whatsoever … it is entirely unfounded and without merit.”
Segalwe said “every bank record that had a bearing on the investigation or which involved the donations was obtained from the FIC [Financial Intelligence Centre]”.
This was done in terms of a memorandum of understanding entered into by the two institutions, he said.