“Ah, ah, yeah (Lies, lies) ooh, baby (lies) Well, well. We took a vow to be ever true. I lived up to mine, tell me, did you? Someone saw you with your old lover. Hand in hand, I don’t understand. You said it ended so long ago. You had me believing while you were deceiving me with lies (lies). Wish I could have seen it in your eyes. (Lies) but I never did (no, I never did). Words made famous from the guitar-laced tune of South Africa’s famous jazz export Jonathan Butler.
A week is a long time in politics, we know it because on November 6, South Africa’s caretaker president Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa pressed by the DA to clarify his knowledge of a payment of R500000.00 paid to his businessman-son Andile Ramaphosa’s trust account by Bosasa, the questionable facilities management company stood proudly and told South Africa that he as ‘moral’ leader would take his son personally to jail if there is any corruption with the payment.
This statement was precipitated by the DA leader Mmusi Maimane informing the House that he has in possession an affidavit signed by the former Bosasa accountant of a payment of R500000.00 paid from the company to the Ramaphosa’s son (Andile). Bosasa, which now trades under the name, African Global Operations, is a company that receives billions of rand in contracts from the South African government.
Caretaker president Ramaphosa in reply to this question told the House that he had confronted his son on the payment and that Andile explained that the money was for advisory services provided to Bosasa. Ramaphosa senior went on to explain his son’s business interest with the following words, “He advises both local and international companies and this payment, I can show you Mr Maimane that I asked him at close range whether this was money that was obtained illegally, unlawfully and he said this was a service that was provided. To this end, he even showed me a contract he signed with Bosasa and the contract also deals with issues of integrity, issues of anti-corruption and all that.”
Ever the one seeking to be seen to act against corruption, a scripted trademark of his infamous CR17 campaign was framed around, Ramaphosa was eager to let us know that if there was any corruption in the arrangement, he would act.
Showing that he wears the big drolls, Ramaphosa talked tough with the following words: “If it turns out that there’s any illegality and corruption in the way that he has dealt with this matter, I will be the first, absolutely the first to make sure he becomes accountable even if it means that I’m the one that will take him to the police station,” [sic]
On Friday 16 November, Ramaphosa in a written reply to the Speaker of Parliament shared that he “inadvertently provided incorrect information”. Clearly, this constitutes an undeniable backtracking on his earlier response delivered in parliament. Ramaphosa now would tell South Africa the received amount that was paid by Bosasa into his son’s account was really a donation for his CR17 Campaign to ANC high office.
What then to make of this 360 degrees turnabout of SA’s caretaker president on a subject of politics and money complex where beneficiary companies who earn billions from their relationships with political power exert power for their donations.
There are those who argue we must extend Ramaphosa honour for him rectifying himself through his latest version. These argue it shows his consistency of trying to be clean. Firstly, while this may be or not, the issue of Ramaphosa’s response in the first instance was not organically coming from as initiated, he was coerced in asked questions from the DA. Meaning the DA must get the credit for firstly, bringing the subject matter of this questionable payment to the House’s attention. Secondly, the DA’s threat and subsequent action to attain a right to access the details of the claimed contract Ramaphosa proudly shared, forced the second response. We may therefore not rush to extend praise to the Ramaphosa, it can be argued that he was forced to make both statements and can, therefore, never get any respect for taking the House in confidence on the subject matter.
Secondly, his latest turnabout on the saga, by itself does not take him out of any troubled waters. We now have two versions of one incident, two versions provided from the same mouth and we have to make sense of this in a space of media crafted “angels and demons’, where the toxic relations of capital’s influence on the political canvas is laid bare daily in VBS scandals, Municipalities looted by business, State Capture Commission, and politicians fingered for corruption. Can we simply take the president’s word in both instances, why should we not place the burden of truth on the president? May I also remind us in this very toxic space, Ramaphosa is paraded as an angel, the opposite of his predecessor.
Thirdly, Ramaphosa’s first statement thus can be reduced to the typical fancy footwork of politics in which he thought his charm would save him and stop the DA from seeking the details of a claimed contract. His so-called ‘tough talk’ was nothing but politics as guided by his ever-present public relations machinery.
In the fourth instance, beyond the first and second statements of Ramaphosa which presents diametrically opposite content lays the critical question: How much of the donation did Ramaphosa know upfront before his first oral response to Parliament? It becomes crucial to engage if Ramaphosa knew or not because his second statement affirms that Andile received this money as a donation not for Andile’s campaign but for the CR17 campaign. Meaning, Andile and his trust account were used as a conduit to receive R500,000.00 under the guise of a service-provider contractual relationship as advanced in his first response.
In the fifth instance, we must need again attempt to understand, the intention to have received the money for work performed in a trust account which holds its own ramifications that the relevant authorities may want to engage in an unfolding saga. What is now essential is to establish did Ramaphosa know before he made his first statement. His claim from his first response suggests he did not know. He equally in his second statement claims the money was deposited or received without his knowledge. Who exactly directed and or advised that the donation is made into the trust account?
It, therefore, becomes a matter of what is the common denominator of both statements, as you guessed in both first and second statement Ramaphosa denies knowledge. That for us can become the smoking gun. Because it attests motive for both statements without realisation. It can be surmised knowledge of the donation compromises Ramaphosa in every aspect.
With the benefit of his second statement which places him as the direct benefactor, we know it becomes an attempt to move Andile out of the picture and Ramaphosa daddying-up to say I can handle this. If we now take cognisance of his second response which delineates a CR17 campaign and not a contract, can we still assume that Ramaphosa did not know? It becomes increasingly challenging to extend the benefit of the doubt to Ramaphosa as absent in knowledge of the donation.
In the sixth instance, thus, on the other hand, merely acknowledging the money was for the CR17 campaign as the new truth, opens up a slew of questions among others, were these donations solicited? Who was directly responsible to have fiduciary control and powers as to where and how such received money was to be spent? How many other State-purse beneficiary companies made similar donations, and are the other accounts beyond Andile’s trust account that were also used for the CR17? Can we trace how the money left Andile’s trust account and who became the second level beneficiary?
Have we forgotten, how Bidvest a company Ramaphosa has known close ties with, reserved hotel rooms for ANC delegates attending 54thConference and was rumoured to buy the votes of delegates. Bosasa’s ‘donations’ and Bidvest’s generous gifts and that of others can be construed as nothing but to buy the favour of the incumbent. It goes without saying that at some stage Ramaphosa will have to repay them in kind and that in SA will come from the state coffers however wrapped. We know businesses do not give out money without an explicit intent of benefitting ultimately or later. What is the deal Ramaphosa has with his donors, that he would use his son’s Trust Account under the guise of service provider contract relations?
Let us equally dispense with the sophism of the donation was for the ANC Campaign. The ANC was not campaigning in 2017, it will campaign for 2019 national elections. It is deceiving to make the claim that it was an ANC campaign who benefitted. This was the CR17 Campaign who was in the race to become president of the ANC. Hiding behind an ANC flag is not acceptable, it must remain the Cyril Ramaphosa campaign for ANC high office. The ANC cannot be used to hide who was the benefactor of this donation.
We are compelled to ask, what was the motive of the donations on the part of Bosasa and others we still in the future will hear who equally made donations? We do not have to go far, Bosasa is infamously known for having bought politicians favour, we recently learnt of the vocal MP Vincent Smith loans and monies received from Bosasa. We have heard how other politicians like Gwede Mantashe and Nomvula Mokonyane were also linked to Bosasa favours or deals, while these are not yet proven they fill our discourse. We also know that Watson’s controversial company is a gross benefactor of billions from the very state coffers now presided over by Ramaphosa and his team.
Meaning for someone who framed his CR 17 campaign on morality narrowly understood in money corruption claims between the state and capital, why would Ramaphosa have been that naïve to assume these donations would not indicate the opposite of what he was seeking to sell South Africa? Or was this common for Ramaphosa throughout his political and business careers to receive donations regardless of how these may compromise and send wrong messages? Was this the businessman cutting the deals in receiving donations to propel him to the ANC high office by extension SA presidency? When were Bosasa plausibly and many others going to call on a return of the favour of their donations? Was Bosasa and others told ‘you have benefitted it’s time to pay back‘? We don’t know there are so many unanswered questions and the more we engage Ramaphosa in his two statements, the more we see a character emerging of someone who has questions to answer.
Lastly, the undeniable subject of familial relations between Ramaphosa and his son arguably the heir to his billions affords grounds to conclude Ramaphosa may have from the start been totally in the loop on the either, requested or offered and subsequently received money. He as the face and head of the CR 17 campaign, may even have directed the Trust as the recipient beneficiary account for this and possibly other donations.
Should we prove that Ramaphosa had prior knowledge of this ‘donation’ for his advancement into ANC high office, can we then argue Ramaphosa consciously lied since he knew upfront? What then are the implications for Ramaphosa if it can be established that he lied to the House and that he was responsible to direct all the funds of his campaign?
The State Capture Commission has seen many lies exposed, Nene Nhlanhla was made to fall on his sword for his lies. Malusi Gigaba after 14 years of being in the cabinet was proven to have lied under oath. Zweli Mkhize was exposed by the ANC Treasurer-General to have lied when he denied the ANC received donations from Vele Investments who owned the now sequestrated VBS bank. Vytjie Mentor’s multiple lies are laid bare in the middle of her testimony, was forced to correct lies in her published book, and subsequently, through her attorneys Webber Wentzel apologising for having lied about meeting Fana Hlongwane. Barbara Hogan and Vytjie Mentor have both lied about the role, designation of among others the ANC DSG, Jessie Duarte who only became DSG in 2012.
Now we have to contend with the ANC President, who is the current caretaker SA president, who may have knowingly deceived and lied to the House when he may have known from the start the truth of the Bosasa donation to his son’s trust account which was for his benefit. Ramaphosa remains suspended in mistrust, the face of ambivalence and not trusted by the poor to lead SA to an economic transformation that will benefit colonial and apartheid victims. With seven months to the elections, can Ramaphosa be trusted to lead the ANC to victory as a morally sound corrupt free individual, when his business deals – donations – which spares not even his own and however wrapped follows him like a wet diaper?