No, President Ramaphosa, a bribe is a bribe
Note to Editors: the following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at a protest outside the headquarters of controversial facilities management company, Bosasa - now trading under the name, African Global, in Krugersdorp. Maimane was joined by Team One SA Spokesperson on Corruption, Phumzile van Damme, Team One SA Spokesperson on State Capture, Natasha Mazzone, and DA Gauteng Provincial Leader, John Moodey.
Fellow South Africans,
President Ramaphosa lied to Parliament, and the nation, about the R500,000 paid to him by the corruption-plagued company Bosasa last year. He told us it was legitimate money earned by his son for consulting work, and that he had even seen the contract. But when the truth emerged – that the money was in fact for him and his personal election campaign – he tried to beat the media to the story by issuing a retraction and correction.
This is an extremely serious breach of conduct in terms of the Executive Ethics Act and not, as he and Jackson Mthembu have been at pains to explain, just an innocent mistake. It has very serious implications for his Presidency and cannot be made to go away by a sheepish apology.
For this reason I have referred the matter to the Office of the Public Protector for investigation. If it is then found that the President knowingly and wilfully misled Parliament, he will have to face the consequences. Because this is the level of accountability our democracy deserves.
Let’s talk for a minute what the President lied about. But first I need to tell you about the way corruption works between government officials and companies that do business – or want to do business – with the state.
It’s really simple: The company makes a “donation” to the politician, and in return the company is rewarded with government contracts. These contracts are usually awarded outside of the normal tender process, and often at inflated prices. But that’s why they paid the bribe. That’s how you purchase yourself a President.
It happens every day, at every level and sphere of government. It has become the accepted way of doing business with the ANC, and it can range from R100 to secure a short-term EPWP job to hundreds of millions of Rands to secure multi-billion Rand contracts.
They never use their own bank accounts – there is always a middleman. This could be a family member, a shell company or a trust account – anything to put a little distance between them and the person paying the bribe.
It is a system of corruption that has become part of the very fabric of the ANC government. A system that we can only eradicate through a party reshuffle, and not a cabinet reshuffle.
So why am I telling you this today? The reason I’m telling you is because our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, wants you to think of the money he received from this company here – African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa – as something other than a bribe.
He desperately needs you to believe it wasn’t a bribe, because if you don’t – if you add up two and two and get four – your only conclusion will be that our new President is not so different from the old one. That there is no good ANC and bad ANC – there’s only one ANC, and they have only one way of conducting their business.
A bribe is a bribe, whether it is paid to a local councillor, to Jacob Zuma or to Cyril Ramaphosa. If we were outraged when others did it, we should be equally outraged when the new President does it.
Last year, as he was campaigning to become President of the ANC, and later of our country, he was bankrolled by all sorts of people. This is normal. It costs money to run a campaign. What isn’t normal, however, is when those making the donations go on to benefit from government contracts. That’s the bit the ANC don’t want to talk about. That’s the difference between a donation and a bribe.
So let’s have a look at the company Cyril Ramaphosa and his spin doctors want you to believe is just another anonymous donor. Very few companies do bigger business with the state than Bosasa. Even fewer of them have a background of corruption that matches that of Bosasa.
This is a company with government contracts worth more than R10 billion with Correctional Services, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Airports Company SA.
It is also a company that has been under investigation for large-scale fraud and corruption for more than a decade. Some reports say that over 400 criminal cases involving Bosasa have been referred to the NPA by the Special Investigation Unit.
These include the alleged payment of bribes to prison bosses in return for huge tenders – payments arranged by the very same Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson who gave the go-ahead for Ramaphosa’s payment.
Only the NPA will be able to answer why, since 2007, no prosecutions have followed the detailed and ongoing investigation of the SIU. But if we’ve learnt one thing in this country, it’s that a persistent refusal to prosecute by the NPA is an almost certain indication of guilt.
And if you need any further proof of Bosasa’s dirty business with the ANC, just look at the list of cadres who were gifted expensive security services at their private homes by the company. Since 2013 Bosasa has installed high-end alarm systems, CCTV cameras and electric fencing, completely free of charge, for the likes of Gwede Mantashe, Nomvula Mokonyane, Thabang Makwetla, Dudu Myeni (SAA), Linda Mti, Mbulelo Gingcana (PRASA) and Vincent Smith.
And finally, let us not forget the tried and tested modus operandi of ANC Presidents and Ministers: Get the family, and specifically the children, in on the deal. We saw it with the children and nephew of Jacob Zuma. And now we are seeing it with Ramaphosa’s son, Andile.
As the President admitted in Parliament – before half retracting this admission later when the truth came out – his son does business with Bosasa. The President said that he confronted his son about these dealings and was assured that all was above board. And that, according to him, is where this matter ends.
Well, I have some bad news for the President. This matter ends when the truth comes out, and not a minute sooner.
We know that Andile is involved with 34 different companies, but we don’t know which of these deal with African Global/Bosasa and what the nature of this business is. What we certainly won’t do is accept, without questioning, the President’s assurance that all is above board. Because it looks more and more like we have simply replaced uBaba kaDuduzane with uBaba kaAndile.
We can’t have double standards when it comes to bribery and corruption – particularly not when it involves the highest office of the country. The President’s links to Bosasa – including all payments made to him, to the ANC and to his son, whether directly or through shell companies, third parties or trust accounts – must be investigated in detail.
It is now six days since I called for this investigation, and we are yet to hear from the President when and how this will take place. All we’ve had from him and his party are clumsy excuses for supposedly misspeaking in Parliament.
That’s not good enough. And neither is a promise to pay back the dirty money. Because if it were, then every criminal ever caught out could simply say “I’ll pay it back” and walk away scot-free. When it comes to accountability, we have far higher standards than that.
A DA government will not tolerate corruption. Because only a government that is truly tough on corruption can build a free and fair society – one united, prosperous South Africa that works for all its people. That is why we will send those found guilty of corruption to jail for 15 years. That is why we will make use of Blockchain technology to make the payment of all public money transparent and incorruptible.
And that is why, when it comes to your Bosasa money Mr President, we demand the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Whatever the consequences for you and your party.
Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 23 November 2018