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HomeNewsCourt hears Ramaphosa has no conflict of interest in suspending Public Protector

Court hears Ramaphosa has no conflict of interest in suspending Public Protector

Court hears Ramaphosa has no conflict of interest in suspending Public Protector

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Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday that there was no risk of conflict of interest in the investigation into the Phala Phala ‘Farmgate’ scandal when President Cyril Ramaphosa suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Arguing before a full Bench, Ramaphosa’s legal counsel, Karrisha Pillay, said the question was whether there was a risk of a conflict of interest between Ramaphosa’s official responsibilities and his private interests.

“I have to concede the private interest is at stake. We submit at the level of legal principle that there is no risk because of what the Public Protector Act provides,” Pillay said.

However, she said the truth of the matter was that the president was co-operating fully with the investigation.

“There is no evidence to contradict this statement in that regard,” she said.

Pillay said the question before the court should be whether it could be said that because there was a new investigation in relation to Ramaphosa, that that gave rise to a conflict of interests.

“The court should have regard to the history of this matter on the timeline,” she said.

Ramaphosa’s legal counsel informed the court that the president had received a letter from the National Assembly on March 10, and then gave Mkhwebane the opportunity to make representations on a possible suspension.

“The public protector was fully apprised of the fact that the president could exercise that decision from the date on which the audi alter am partum letter was sent. She therefore sought undertaking to stop or halt that.

“We submit that against that timeline, it can’t be said that, because the new investigation against the president was started on June 7, made public in June and the president then issued a letter of suspension on June 9, it is a rushed job in response to that,” Pillay told the court.

But Judge Gcinikhaya Nuku said the disqualifying factor was that members of the Cabinet could not act in a manner that exposed them to any situation involving the risk of official and public interests.

In response, Pillay said the critical question was what the factors were that evidenced the risk.

Pressed to confine herself to the Phala Phala saga, Pillay said the Public Protector Act provided for the president to choose an acting public protector and to suspend Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

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