Efforts by President’s Cyril Ramaphosa’s opponents to undermine his anti-corruption credentials received a significant setback yesterday when a full Bench of the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) denounced findings against him by the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane as 'unlawful', 'irrational', 'reckless', 'not showing partiality or an open mind' in setting aside her report on the President in the CR17 funding matter.

Mkhwebane’s report has consistently been used as a base to attack the President, not least by the EFF, which partnered Mkhwebane in her dispute with Ramaphosa.

Business Day rates the judgment as another blow for Mkhwebane’s credibility at a time when she is facing possible removal from office by a parliamentary inquiry. The DA’s bid to oust her is largely based on previous judgments that raised questions about her competency, honesty and partiality in dealing with politically-charged cases. Despite the emphatic nature of the judgment, the EFF says it will appeal.

According to a News24 report, the party said the findings that Ramaphosa had not misled Parliament exposed the court as an institution complicit in weakening Parliament.

EFF national spokesperson Delisile Ngwenya said the ruling was in direct violation of the foundation of constitutional order of equality before the law.

‘Equality before the law means Ramaphosa must be subjected to the same scrutiny that (former President Jacob) Zuma and many others faced when they violated the Constitution, laws and rules of Parliament. In defence of the integrity of Parliament, its public standing and general respect by all, the EFF will challenge this ruling. We shall appeal to the Constitutional Court to overturn it and allow Ramaphosa to be held accountable.’

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen described Mkhwebane as compromised and incompetent, but said this did not mean Ramaphosa was automatically innocent of all claims against him. He added, according to News24, that Ramaphosa still needed to answer several questions which included what services his son Andile Ramaphosa delivered to Bosasa, and what was the connection between his son’s consultancy firm and the contracts Bosasa got from the state.

Steenhuisen also questioned why former Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson's R500 000 donation to the CR17 campaign moved around several bank accounts before ending up in the campaign's account. He also wants to know whether that donation was part of Ramaphosa's R400m campaign budget.

‘The fact is that Andile Ramaphosa was only on the Bosasa payroll because he is close to the centre of power. This is an abuse of power,’ said Steenhuisen.

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Ramaphosa's lawyer says the President recorded a ‘resounding victory’ which was ‘entirely justified’.

According to News24, Peter Harris said the court made a clear statement of its disapproval. ‘The number of negative adjectives used to describe her conduct were significant – 'unlawful', 'irrational', 'reckless', 'not showing partiality or an open mind'.

I think those are a very sad reflection on the current occupier of the Office of the Public Protector,’ Harris said.

‘In fact, if it weren't so tragic it would almost be a joke.’

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said Mkhwebane had not expected the ruling but respects the court’s decision. He could not say whether the Public Protector would appeal the ruling, but said Mkhwebane would study the judgment before planning her next move.

News24 notes this is the third judgment in a big case which has not gone Mkhwebane's way and she is staring down an inquiry into her fitness as Public Protector.

Segalwe said, however: ‘She does not believe the reason for wanting to stay in office must be based on the merits of her investigations or even the argument she brings before court.’ He added that Mkhwebane has ‘no interest’ in blocking the inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

‘There are a lot of High Court judgments that get overturned by the SCA and the CC,’ Segalwe said.

‘It can't be that when a court decides there has been a misleading of the law here, irrationality here, therefore the person is not fit to hold office.’

Full News24 report