Public Protector demands donations made to CR17 campaign be made public
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to publish all the donations he had received during his 2017 ANC presidential campaign, finding he had breached the executive ethics code by failing to disclose the donations.
In her findings, relating to the Gavin Watson donation saga, that were published on Friday, Mkhwebane found all the donations to the CR17 campaign amounted to benefits of a material nature to Ramaphosa.
Watson is the boss of African Global Operations (AGO), which was formerly known as Bosasa, a service company that allegedly bribed senior government and ANC officials to win lucrative state contracts.
"President Ramaphosa as a presidential candidate for the ANC political party received campaign contributions that benefited him in his personal capacity," Mkhwebane said.
"He was therefore duty bound to declare such financial benefit accruing to him from the campaign pledges. Failure to disclose the said material benefits, including a donation from AGO, constitutes a breach of the code."
Mkhwebane said because Ramaphosa was the deputy president and an MP at the time, he was therefore bound by the code of ethical conduct and disclosure of members' interest for assembly and permanent council members to declare the financial interest.
According to her, Ramaphosa believed there was a distinction between donations made to a campaign fund for a political party's elective conference and gifts and benefits received by people in their official capacity or in an attempt to influence the member's performance of their official duties.
"He [Ramaphosa] contended that it could never have been the intention of the legislature to regulate donor funding for internal political party elections," Mkhwebane said.
"According to him, it was clearly the intention of the legislature to regulate the provision of gifts and benefits to members 'in return for a benefit received by the member in their official capacity' or 'in an attempt to influence the member in the performance of the member's duties'."
She added Ramaphosa said there was no legal obligation to disclose sources of private funding in an internal political party election.
In terms of the R500 000 donation made by Watson, Mkhwebane found Ramaphosa had deliberately misled Parliament when he responded to a question about the donation in the National assembly.
Ramaphosa was confronted by DA leader Mmusi Maimane with a signed affidavit by former Bosasa auditor Peet Venter, which revealed that a R500 000 payment was made to an attorney's trust account, called EFG2, in October 2017.
Venter's affidavit stated the payment was for the Andile Ramaphosa Foundation, but no such foundation exists.
Ramaphosa responded in the National Assembly, saying he was aware his son was in business with Bosasa and the payment formed part of the contract.
But later that week, the president wrote a letter to then -speaker Baleka Mbete, correcting his reply to Maimane, saying the R500 000 was in fact a donation to his CR17 campaign.
"He deliberately misled Parliament, in that he should have allowed himself sufficient time to research a well-informed response," Mkhwebane said.
"I therefore find President Ramaphosa's conduct as referred to above, although ostensibly in good faith, to be inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet and therefore in violation of Section 91(1) of the Constitution.”
In her remedial action, Mkhwebane demanded the publication of all donations received by Ramaphosa because he was the deputy president then and was thus bound to declare such financial interests.
She said this should be done within 30 days of receipt of her report.
Mkhwebane asked National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise to refer Ramaphosa's violations to the joint committee of ethics and members' interests for consideration.
The Public Protector also asked the police and National Prosecuting Authority to investigate Watson for lying under oath and conduct further investigations into the prima facie evidence of money laundering, respectively.
Mkhwebane’s findings in a nutshell:
· Ramaphosa had deliberately misled the National Assembly concerning the R500 000 donation when he responded to a question from DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
· He had violated the executive ethics code in that he had exposed himself to a situation involving the risk of conflict between himself and his son through businesses owned by AGO.
· The president had breached the executive ethics code by failing to disclose the financial interest accrued to him as a result of the donations received for the CR17 campaign.
· Mkhwebane said she was of the view there was merit to the allegations of money laundering in terms of the R500 000 Bosasa donation as it was sent to several intermediaries before landing in the CR17 trust account.
CR17 campaign to become the subject of money laundering investigation following PP findings
President Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC presidential campaign account will now be the subject of a money laundering investigation, following a directive by the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Mkhwebane released her report on the Bosasa donation saga on Friday morning, which also looked at the CR17 trust account, the donations received and how the money moved around.
The Public Protector said that large sums of money were transferred by various donors into a trust account named EFG2, which was the account that the CR17 campaign used to collect donations for Ramaphosa's ANC presidential race.
From there, the money was distributed to several beneficiaries including Ramaphosa's foundation, the Ria Tenda Trust and Linked Environmental Services.
"From the evidence received by my office, an amount of more than R191m was deposited into the EFG2 Absa trust account between 6 December 2016 and 1 January 2018 and just over R190m was transferred out of this account in the same period," Mkhwebane said.
Bank records of the Ria Tenda Trust account showed that over R388 million was deposited into the account between January 1, 2017, and February 20, 2019.
Nearly the same amount was transferred out of the account during the same period.
According to Mkhwebane, the other account she mentioned, Linked Environmental Services saw deposits of more than R441m between 15 December 15, 2016, and February 13, 2019.
Nearly the same amount was transferred out of the FNB account in the same period.
The Linked Environmental Services transferred around R335 000 to Ramaphosa's foundation between July 20, 2017, and March 26, 2018.
According to a diagram in the report, Ramaphosa's advisor Donne Nicol and the CR17 campaign manager James Motlatsi are both trustees of Ria Tenda Trust, while a man named Crispian Olver who is also a trustee of the Ria Tenda Trust, is the director of Linked Environmental Services.
Furthermore, Mkhwebane found that out of all the donations received for the CR17 campaign, records reflect that three large amounts were paid by the same donor.
While R30m was paid over on March 9, 2017, more than R39m and a second payment of over R51m was paid on the same day, September 29, 2017.
On top of this, the R500 000 donation made by Bosasa boss Gavin Watson went through several intermediaries before being deposited into the CR17 account, which was the suspicion that DA leader Mmusi Maimane raised when he lodged a complaint with the Public Protector.
Mkhwebane said these accounts and transactions give merit to the allegations relating to the suspicion of money laundering and that they should be investigated by the National Prosecuting Authority.
Drawing a conclusion on the donations and the exchanging of large sums of money, Mkhwebane alluded to a scenario of state capture.
"I wish to express my preliminary view that such a scenario, when looked at carefully, creates a situation of the risk of some sort of state capture by those donating these moneys to the campaign," Mkhwebane said.
Looking at the "prima facie evidence" before her, Mkhwebane said in her findings that she is of the view that allegations of money laundering have merit.
"The allegation that there is an improper relationship between President Ramaphosa and his family on the one side, and the company Africa Global Operations on the other side, due to the nature of the R500 000, payment passing through several intermediaries, instead of a straight donation towards the CR17 campaign, this raising suspicion of money laundering, has merit."
In her remedial action, she has informed the National Director of Public Prosecutions to conduct a further investigation into the prima facie evidence of money laundering.
'We will act decisively against Ramaphosa,' says Malema in reaction to Public Protector's report
EFF leader Julius Malema has warned South Africans not to blame the red berets when they "act decisively" against President Cyril Ramaphosa.
On Friday, Malema tweeted a video of himself speaking at the State of the Nation Address debate seemingly warning of things to come in light of the findings of the latest report from the Public Protector.
In the video, Malema says: "Mr President, you will not win the fight against corruption if the president is involved in allegations of money laundering.
"We want the president to come clean, to explain and take the country into [his] confidence as to who are the people who donated money into the CR17 campaign and what do they stand to benefit."
Malema continued: "We don't have an intention, none whatsoever, to remove you as president because your people have elected you democratically but if you are going to come across as a constitutional delinquent, we'll be left with no option but to engage in an impeachment process against you.
"We want you Mr President, where a mistake was made, to take full responsibility and announce what practical steps you are going to take in correcting those mistakes.
"We don't see anyone in your party, if you were to be removed tomorrow, who can replace you, otherwise we would all be in a disaster. So we are in a disaster now, we don't want to be in a worse disaster. Please help South Africa by taking it into your confidence," said Malema.
In another video, the EFF leader stated the party had told Ramaphosa to surround himself with "very good young men and women who will be able to give him proper advice and the mistake he did was to surround himself with the minorities, his private office is run by minorities".As a result of this, Malema said that Ramaphosa is going to face serious challenges in Parliament. "Law enforcement is going to go after him..." Malema said.