#CR17: THE INTERVIEW

Ramaphosa believes #CR17 leaks a ‘manufactured crisis’ — Khusela Diko

By Ferial Haffajee 26 August 2019
Caption
Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko. (Photo: Twitter /Khusela)

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that the trending topic related to the multi-million-rand funding of his campaign to become ANC president is a social media phenomenon that most people don’t lose sleep over and that it has not impacted on the reputation of the Presidency. Here, spokesperson Khusela Diko is quizzed about the leaking of Ramaphosa’s personal emails and the public dump of bank accounts related to who funded the campaign.

See also here: How Ramaphosa’s campaign spent R400-million — and why it matters 

Question: Is it accurate to say that the #CR17 email accounts were hacked and that the president’s banking records (as well as those of the #CR17 campaign) were illegally obtained? If so, by whom?

Answer: It is of concern to the Presidency that the private correspondence of the Head of State is inexplicably in the public domain. At this point, however, the Presidency has no knowledge (of) how such information was obtained and is cautious of casting aspersions on anyone or any institution.

Q. Have national intelligence or other law enforcement agencies been alerted to this? If so, what are they doing about it?

A. The Presidency hasn’t yet taken any action on this matter.

Q. The horse has bolted and the so-called #CR17leaks have had an impact on the public narrative. How serious is this impact?

A. The negative narrative around the so-called #CR17Leaks has been in the main driven on social media — known for its the propensity for strong views on either side of an issue. I would caution against equating clamours on social media, no matter how loud or vociferous, with a purported widespread public sentiment.

As the president has said on a number of occasions, this “controversy” is par for the course in a vibrant and open a democracy where freedom of speech is guaranteed under an ANC government.

It does, however, as the president said, bring to the fore the necessity for society and the lawmakers to engage on South Africa’s electoral funding laws and regulations.

The president has in the past and will continue to maintain that #CR17 was run as a clean and ethical campaign and that there was no criminality nor wrongdoing. Nevertheless, South Africans rightly feel entitled to greater transparency regarding who funds their elected representatives. Accepting as we do the principles of uniformity and equity of disclosure, we must, however, ensure that a common standard is applied to all candidates and all political parties.

Q. Why is the confidentiality of donors so important if they gave without the intention of receipt of any political favours? It seems as if it is a problem relatively easily resolved (if there is no quid pro quo).

A. The campaign had made a commitment to donors that their information would be kept confidential. This commitment will continue to be respected. Further, there is no regulation that necessitates such disclosure. Any donor, however, who feels compelled to declare their donation to the campaign, may do so of their own accord.

Q. In requesting and receiving the Bosasa donation, at the centre of this story and of the investigation by the public protector, it seems as if the #CR17 campaign did not do adequate due diligence. Bosasa has been at the centre of allegations of corruption for more than a decade now. Do you agree? (The #CR17 campaign received a R500,000 donation from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson and a complaint to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane triggered the report and subsequent leaks.)

A. The Presidency is not in a position to answer this question.

Q. Do you characterise the trajectory of the public protector report into the Bosasa donation and the leak of bank records and details of donors as a problem or as a crisis or as neither?

A. The Office of the Public Protector exists to promote our constitutional democracy and should be respected, promoted and protected by all. This further means that it must be given the space to conduct its work without interference. The leaking to the media of information that only the public protector should have is of serious concern as the rules governing the public protector direct that the office has a responsibility to safeguard the confidentiality of such information.

Any “crisis” relating to this matter, if any, is manufactured. The president remains committed to his work to restore clean and proper governance, grow the economy and create jobs for millions of South Africans who remain in poverty.

Q. How do you think it has impacted the Presidency and its acceptance and regard as a reformist Presidency?

(No answer given)

Q. There is a general sense in the pubic narrative that reform has stalled and that the necessary economic reforms are not unrolling fast enough, nor are they being driven efficiently by the Presidency. What is your view?

Government has made significant progress in driving implementation of key reforms since the announcement of the economic stimulus and recovery package last year (2019). This includes the implementation of growth-enhancing reforms like (the) reviewing of our visa regime to attract more tourists and more highly skilled professionals. Just recently, the Department of Home Affairs announced visa waivers for countries with high tourism potential like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

We have also introduced trade measures to safeguard key agricultural sectors like the poultry industry, and in the process protect local jobs.

The policy directive for the release of high-demand spectrum gazetted on 26 July 2019 is expected to attract fresh investment into the digital and telecoms sectors.

The Ports regulator in November announced a tariff decrease of 6% and also decreased container and automotive cargo dues as part of our commitment to review administered prices.

We are also accelerating our efforts at agrarian reform. Among others, funding to the tune of R3.9-billion has been released to support black commercial farmers through the Land Bank. DM

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