If a leaked preliminary report by the public protector is made final, the president may sit with an embarrassing black mark next to his name.
The Sunday Independent has reported that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has found President Cyril Ramaphosa guilty of “inadvertently misleading” parliament over his R500,000 campaign donation from Bosasa in her preliminary report.
The president was given 10 days to respond.
The paper has had access to the report, which they claim includes the bombshell that Ramaphosa and his campaign team may have become part of money laundering activities, since the donation from controversial Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson had gone through a number of intermediary companies to reach them.
Both the public protector’s office and the presidency were not willing to comment on the leaked preliminary findings of Mkhwebane’s report at this stage. Ramaphosa’s response was reportedly delivered on Friday.
In February, The Citizen reported that Ramaphosa admitted the R500,000 donation from Watson had still not been repaid, while denying that he had deliberately told a lie in parliament.
In his initial eight-page response to Mkhwebane, Ramaphosa explained he was informed by his adviser in September 2018 about the rumour that his son Andile Ramaphosa had received a payment of R500,000 from Bosasa (now African Global Operations), which Andile said was made for “an Advisory Mandate for possible business activities in some East African countries”.
Andile’s company had, in December 2017, signed an anti-bribery and corruption policy that he instituted with all his clients “as a precautionary measure following [his father’s] election as president of the ANC in December 2017”.
Ramaphosa said Andile showed him copies of the advisory mandate and the anti-bribery and corruption policy, which, according to Ramaphosa, was when he first learnt of Andile’s relationship with the controversial company.
“From the way it was explained to me, and based on the Advisory Mandate and Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy, I had no reason to believe that there was anything untoward about the relationship,” said Ramaphosa.
Almost a year after seeing Andile’s contract, DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked Ramaphosa a question relating to a Bosasa payment of R500,000 in the National Assembly last year.
In a follow-up question to the president, Maimane claimed he had evidence of a questionable payment of R500,000 made to his son.
The president said he was aware of the business relationship Maimane was talking about but said it was legally instituted through a company Andile did business with.
“It was brought to my attention a long time ago and I proceeded to ask my son what this was all about. He runs a financial consultancy business and he consults for a number of companies, and one of those companies is Bosasa, where he provides services of entrepreneurship, particularly on the procurement process, and he advises both local and international companies,” he explained in the National Assembly during a question-and-answer session.
The president said at the time that if it turned out his son had lied about the payments being illegal, he would hold him personally accountable.
“I will be the first to make sure he becomes accountable, even if it means that I’m the one who will take him to the police station. That I will be able to do,” he said at the time.
Ramaphosa explained further in his response to Mkhwebane that it was after the parliamentary Q&A session had ended that his adviser informed him that the account Maimane was referring to was not Andile’s but an attorney’s account used by the CR17 campaign to raise funds for his party election campaign. Ramaphosa claimed he and his campaign managers had made a “deliberate” decision not to be involved in fundraising activities, but to only address meetings and and dinners with potential funders.
“We had decided that I would not be provided with the identity of donors or the amounts pledged, as I did not want to feel under obligation to them in any shape or form at any time in the future.”
As a result, he was not aware that he had received payment from Watson. This was when he decided to “correct” his response to Maimane in the National Assembly, he explained.
His campaign managers’ attempt to meet with Watson to return the money had supposedly been unsuccessful, and, as a result, the R500,000 was transferred into an attorney’s account “until such time as these matters surrounding Global African Operations are clarified following various concerning disclosures before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture”.
Thereafter, he said he would make a decision on whether the money should be returned to Watson, passed on to appropriate government authorities or be donated to a charity.
In April, Maimane met with Mkhwebane and revealed he had also written to the state capture commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to ask for the president to be subpoenaed to appear before the commission over his and his family’s alleged conflict of interest with Bosasa.
“Ramaphosa needs to account to the commission and the nation as to the ever-growing list of transactions, contracts and business dealings between his family and Bosasa.”
He listed Ramaphosa’s R500,000 “donation” from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson towards his campaign to be elected ANC president; that Andile Ramaphosa had a contractual agreement with Bosasa for “advisory services”, through which he earned over R2 million in a little over a year; that Ramaphosa had told Parliament he had seen that contract, and that it was all supposedly above board; and that Andile Ramaphosa’s business partner, a Chinese energy company, attempted to secure a R400 million kickback from an Eskom loan in January last year – at a time when his father Cyril Ramaphosa was heading up state-owned entities, including Eskom.
“There remains much we don’t know. And the Zondo commission is best placed to seek the truth in this matter.”
He added that he had requested to view the president’s declaration of interests since his election in February 2018.
“If the president has failed to disclose any conflict of interest as it relates to his son, then the public protector must investigate whether he has breached the Executive Ethics Act.”
He said the public protector had confirmed she had so far engaged Ramaphosa, his CR17 campaign team and Bosasa; had subpoenaed bank statements and attorneys on each side; and requested an affidavit from Andile Ramaphosa on his version of events.
“We cannot ignore the fact that Bosasa is a company that has been bribing ANC politicians for the past two decades. Bosasa contracts with the ANC government total over R10 billion. Like Zuma-Gupta, the Ramaphosa-Bosasa relationship follows the standard ANC triangle of corruption: the ANC-in-government gives lucrative tenders to connected cronies who bribe officials, which in return funds the ANC.”