President Cyril Ramaphosa has responded to retired Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s scathing remarks regarding his failure to disclose his CR17 campaign donors.
Speaking at the UN Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, President Ramaphosa stated that he would not engage in a “wrestling match” with the judiciary, emphasizing his commitment to maintaining a respectful relationship with the judiciary.
Chief Justice Mogoeng, who retired in 2021, criticized the private funding of political parties and individuals, highlighting the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when politicians accept financial assistance.
Mogoeng argued that private funders expect returns on their investments once the beneficiaries rise to positions of authority.
Mogoeng further emphasized the importance of transparency and accountability in political campaigns, stating that undisclosed private funding could compromise the fulfilment of constitutional obligations by political parties and candidates.
He called on President Ramaphosa to disclose the donors and amounts contributed to his CR17 campaign.
President Ramaphosa’s response to Mogoeng’s remarks demonstrated his commitment to upholding the independence of the judiciary.
He acknowledged Mogoeng’s statements but refrained from engaging in a confrontation, stating that he has never engaged in such matches with the judiciary, whether the justices are serving or retired.
The controversy surrounding the CR17 campaign arose during an investigation into a R500,000 donation by Bosasa. Former Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane concluded that President Ramaphosa had failed to disclose donations made to him and his campaign during his tenure as deputy president.
Mkhwebane’s report suggested possible money-laundering activities, but it was subsequently set aside by the Pretoria High Court and dismissed by the Constitutional Court in 2021.
Chief Justice Mogoeng, however, penned a dissenting judgment, concurring with Mkhwebane’s findings. His dissenting opinion has drawn attention to the issue and reignited the debate on the transparency and accountability of political campaign financing.
The presidency’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, echoed President Ramaphosa’s sentiments, emphasizing that the courts had already ruled on the matter.
Magwenya highlighted that the full bench of the Pretoria High Court had set aside Mkhwebane’s report, and the Constitutional Court had dismissed her appeal.
During a post-cabinet briefing, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni criticized Mogoeng’s remarks, stating that they were unfortunate and that he was ruling from the grave.
Ntshavheni referred to Mogoeng’s dissenting judgment as a minority opinion, suggesting that it did not carry the same weight as the majority ruling.
The debate surrounding the disclosure of campaign donations and the potential influence of private funders on political parties and candidates is not unique to South Africa.
Mature democracies like the United States have extensively researched the issue and implemented regulations to ensure transparency and accountability in campaign financing.
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with political leaders to ensure that they are transparent about their campaign funding sources. By disclosing such information, they can demonstrate their commitment to serving the public interest and avoiding potential conflicts of interest.
President Ramaphosa’s response to Chief Justice Mogoeng’s remarks highlights his commitment to maintaining a respectful relationship with the judiciary.
While the debate on campaign financing transparency continues, it is essential for all stakeholders to work towards a system that upholds accountability, responsiveness, and openness in the political process.