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Ramaphosa asks court to seal certain documents in legal battle

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Ramaphosa asks court to seal certain documents in legal battle
FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his State of the Nation Address at parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rodger Bosch/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo   -   Copyright  POOL New(Reuters)
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Lawyers for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have asked a court to not make public certain information contained in the record of the country’s corruption watchdog because it was obtained unlawfully, the Presidency said on Saturday.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said in July that Ramaphosa had “deliberately misled” parliament about a 500,000 rand ($32,924.20) donation he received for his 2017 campaign to become leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

Her report found he had violated an executive ethics code and said there was prima facie evidence of money laundering involving millions of rand in his campaign’s handling of donations.

Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement on Saturday that it had been made aware that confidential banking information, supposedly held only by Mkhwebane, of the contributors to and recipients from his campaign had been leaked to the media.

This information includes bank statements of third parties, which record private transactions and are “strictly confidential,” it said.

The request to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is pending a determination on whether the information was obtained lawfully and whether it was lawfully sourced in relation to the complaint under investigation.

“The Presidency notes with grave concern what amounts to a violation of the constitutionally enshrined right to privacy. This is all the more troubling as it seems clear that this information had been, from the first instance, obtained in an illegal manner,” it said.

In her report, Mkhwebane said she used copies of subpoenas to FirstRand’s FNB bank, Absa bank and key individuals, as well as copies of affidavits and letters, among key sources of information.

Her office, which began the investigation after a complaint from South Africa’s opposition, on Friday said that she had “conducted the investigation by the book. There was no unlawful activity.”

The saga has proven a headache for Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on cleaning up deep-rooted corruption and reviving Africa’s most developed economy, providing ammunition for enemies including an ANC faction loyal to his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

He has said he will urgently challenge the report, which he says is flawed.

“Neither the President nor the campaign has done anything wrong, ethically or legally. It is a common and accepted practice in South Africa and across the world for parties and candidates to raise funding from donors for campaigns,” his office said.

“The selective circulation of this banking information is clearly intended to cast aspersions on the President.”

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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