Members of the executive should disclose donations to internal party campaigns, the Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday.
The case on the constitutionality of the Executive Ethics Code was brought by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.
“The order of the high court declaring the code unconstitutional is confirmed. The operation of this order is suspended for … 12 months,” said the court.
The apex court’s ruling comes after it heard the second round of litigation in the battle arising from the public protector’s report on donations to Cyril Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, which saw him elected ANC president at the party’s Nasrec elective conference in 2017.
The first round was about the lawfulness of the public protector’s investigation and report, in which disclosure of the campaign’s donors was sought.
The report was set aside by the Constitutional Court last year when it found there was no duty to disclose under the Executive Ethics Code because Ramaphosa did not personally benefit.
The second round, which reached the ConCourt in May, was about whether the code was constitutional and what it would say in the future.
amaBhungane said it unconstitutionally narrowed the disclosure requirements on the president, deputy president, ministers and members of provincial executives.
The Pretoria high court set aside the code as unconstitutional, but suspended its order for 12 months “for the defect to be remedied”. The case then came before the highest court for confirmation.
Counsel for amaBhungane Steven Budlender SC said the effect of the code, as interpreted by the Constitutional Court in round one, was that if a president, minister or MEC set up a separate legal entity and left campaign control to others, they would not have to disclose donations thereto, even if they ran into millions and concerned parties knew who the donors were.
Ramaphosa did not oppose amaBhungane’s application, while the apex court asked the Johannesburg Bar, as a friend of the court, for argument.