NEWS & ANALYSIS

PP may have obtained documents unlawfully - Ramaphosa's lawyer

Peter Harris requests High Court seal certain information contained in record of review application

8 August 2019

Deputy Judge President Gauteng High Court, Pretoria

Per email: [email protected]

Dear Deputy Judge President,

RE: REVIEW APPLICATION IN THE MATTER BETWEEN THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA // THE PUBLIC PROTECTOR CASE NO: 55578/19

1. We refer to the above matter.

2. We confirm that we have been appointed by President Ramaphosa (“our Client”) to act as his legal representatives in relation to the abovementioned review application.

3. Our Client has instructed us to request that certain information contained in the record of the Public Protector be sealed and not be disclosed to the public.

4. The Constitutional Court in Independent Newspaper v Minister for Intelligence Services: in re Masethla,(“Masethla case”) dealt with, inter alia, the procedure to be adopted when a court record is sought to be withheld from the public. In the Masethla case, the Constitutional Court held that it would not prescribe a fixed set of binding principles which are to be applied when determining cases where a record is sought to be withheld from the public, but that a court has the inherent power to regulate its own process for determining whether a record can be withheld from the public.

5. In accordance with the abovementioned finding of the Constitutional Court, we hereby request that any documents and / or information relating to the bank statements of EFG2, Linked Environmental Services, Ria Tenda Trust and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation accounts (should they be part of the record) be sealed and not be made available to the public, as these documents contain confidential information belonging to third parties.

6. It should also be noted that the Public Protector is required to keep the information received during the course of her investigation confidential as outlined in Rule 7 (1) of the Rules Relating to Investigations by the Public Protector and Matters Incidental thereto,which states that:

“The Public Protector shall treat the information received as a result of a complaint lodged or an investigation conducted as confidential and shall take reasonable steps to safeguard confidentiality.”

7. We submit that the bank statements of EFG2, Linked Environmental Services, Ria Tenda Trust and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation accounts contain confidential information which must be protected in terms of the abovementioned provision. The details of these accounts belong to private entities and record their private transactions which are strictly confidential.

8. Furthermore, we have reason to believe that certain of the abovementioned documents may have been unlawfully obtained by the Public Protector. In paragraph 4.3.1.9 of the Public Protector’s Report no. 37 of 2019/20 (“the Report”), a copy of the subpoenas to FNB and ABSA bank, dated February 2019, are listed as key sources of information. However, it has been reported in the media that ABSA Bank’s spokesperson, Phumza Macanda, stated that ABSA did not receive a subpoena from the office of the Public Protector in relation to the Public Protector’s investigation into allegations of a violation of the Executive Ethics Code by our Client.

9. In addition, in the Report, the Public Protector does not state that she subpoenaed bank records from Standard Bank. Therefore, it is unclear how the Public Protector obtained the bank records of the Ria Tenda Trust.

10. In the event that the record shows that the documents and / or information relating to the bank statements of ABSA Bank and Standard Bank were obtained unlawfully, we submit that the information contained in those documents must be protected from public disclosure in terms of the Protection of Personal Information Act (“POPI Act”).

11. The preamble of the POPI Act states that:

Section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;

the right to privacy includes the right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information.”

12. Should it be found that the abovementioned bank statements were obtained unlawfully, it would be contrary to the provisions of the POPI Act to disseminate unlawfully obtained documents in the public record. We respectfully submit that it is the duty of the courts to safeguard against this risk.

13. The use of unlawfully obtained information would also be an abuse of the Public Protector’s office and, in particular, her obligation to act impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias, in terms of section 195 (e) of the Constitution.

14. Insofar as our Client alleges that the Public Protector unilaterally and unlawfully extended the scope of her investigation by investigating all donations and payments made into and out of the CR17 account, instead of focusing on the R500 000.00 payment referred to in the complaint of Mr Mmusi Maimane MP (“Mr Maimane”), we request that the documents that were obtained by the Public Protector as part of the unlawful extension of her investigation should also not be released to the public.

15. In relation to the information received by the Public Protector from the anonymous complainant, which complainant the Public Protector refers to as a “whistle-blower” in the Report, we request that any information supplied by the anonymous complainant should not be disseminated to the public, because the Public Protector has explicitly stated that she did not rely on this evidence. Thus, only two complaints were properly before her – namely, the complaints of Mr Maimane and Mr Floyd Shivambu MP.

16. In paragraph 5.2.26 of the Report, the Public Protector states that she has “evidence which confirms regular updates to President Ramaphosa on the operations of the CR17 campaign by the campaign managers, his directives to them about payments of the money into the CR Foundation as well as being asked by the campaign managers for him to speak to certain donors.” These emails were not put to our Client by the Public Protector. However, it has been reported in the media that emails indicating that our Client knew the identities of the donors of the CR17 campaign have been leaked.

17. We have reason to believe that the abovementioned emails, which are referenced by the Public Protector in the Report, were unlawfully obtained by the Public Protector. It would therefore be in the interests of justice for these emails to be kept confidential, until the issue relating to how the Public Protector obtained these emails has been resolved. We therefore request that these emails should not be released to the public.

18. In the light of the above, we hereby request that the part of the record relating to the bank statements of EFG2, Linked Environmental Services, Ria Tenda Trust and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, and the documents obtained by the Public Protector as part of the unlawful extension of her investigation, and the information supplied to the Public Protector by the anonymous whistle blower, and the leaked emails which allegedly indicate that our Client knew the identities of the donors of the CR17 campaign, only be made available to the Court and to the Respondents; but that this information be sealed from the public.

19. We would be grateful if the Deputy Judge President could direct us in relation to the above request.

Yours faithfully, Peter Harris

Harris Nupen Molebatsi Inc

1 2008 (5) SA 31 (CC).

2 Public Protector Act No. 23 of 1994 Rules Relating to Investigations by the Public Protector and Matters Incidental thereto, 2018.