“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” proclaimed the governing pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, to avoid accountability for their law-breaking. In this unforgettable sentence, Orwell delivered his powerful message down the ages, that all must be equal before the law.
Given the dire state of our economy and the hopes that have been pinned on President Ramaphosa, it is perhaps understandable that South Africans are resistant to his being equal before the law.
It explains why my request for the Public Protector to investigate the nature of the relationship between corrupt Bosasa and the Ramaphosa family has generated resentment. However, I stand firmly behind my actions, confident that I am acting in the country’s best interest.
To recap: Ramaphosa by his own admission received a payment to his campaign bank account of R500,000 from Bosasa’s controversial CEO, Gavin Watson. Also by his own admission, Ramaphosa’s son Andile Ramaphosa has benefitted from a business relationship with Bosasa.
There is a clear conflict of interest in both instances, since Bosasa does billions of rands of business with the state. Yet the President and his son refused my PAIA application for access to Andile’s business contract with Bosasa. Furthermore, President Ramaphosa misled Parliament about these payments. Like it or not, this constitutes a serious breach of the Executive Ethics Code.
The correct (and only) action for the opposition to take was to lay a complaint with the Public Protector requesting her to investigate, which is what I did. Not doing so would have constituted a dereliction of my constitutional duty. In fact, it was the only response available to me: the Office of the Public Protector is the only institution mandated to investigate violations of executive ethics.
Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi’s subsequent testimony to the Zondo Commission into State Capture revealed the extent of the corrupt relationship between Bosasa and many in the ANC.
Equality before the law is a founding principle of SA’s democracy. Indeed, if it were Zuma and his son Duduzane rather than Ramaphosa and Andile, there would be loud calls for accountability.
However, my call for accountability has generated significant resentment for two reasons, both of which are fundamentally flawed.
First, Ramaphosa is seen to represent the “good ANC” which will save SA from the “bad ANC”. Thus, there is a feeling that he must be protected. However, this directly contradicts the principle of equality before the law. It also ignores the reality, which is that there is only one ANC, a party which is currently destroying SA.
Second, the Public Protector herself is incompetent and unfit to hold office. This is somehow used to argue for Ramaphosa’s innocence. Yet Mkhwebane’s unfitness to hold office has no bearing on whether or not the relationship between Bosasa and the President is corrupt.
I will continue to pursue accountability because the principle of equality before the law must be upheld, and the institutions of our democracy respected whether or not the incumbent is fit to hold office.
SA’s long-term success depends on the health of our democratic institutions, not on the health of the ANC. Therefore, President Ramaphosa cannot be “more equal than others”.