Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is investigating President Cyril Ramaphosa for alleged money laundering in donations of more than R400m to his ANC presidential campaign. This is after she scrutinised three bank accounts linked to Ramaphosa as part of her investigation.
The investigation follows a complaint by DA leader Mmusi Maimane after parliament heard that Bosasa, a company that had dodgy contracts with government departments, had given R500,000 to Ramaphosa’s campaign for the party presidency.
If Mkhwebane finds against Ramaphosa, it could provide evidence for impeachment. Maimane asked Mkhwebane to investigate whether Ramaphosa misled parliament when he was first asked about a Bosasa donation to his campaign. Ramaphosa at first denied the donation, then admitted it.
Mkhwebane’s preliminary report, leaked to the media two weeks ago, suggested she intended making a finding of money laundering against Ramaphosa. According to the Sunday Independent, Mkhwebane intends finding Ramaphosa guilty of “inadvertently misleading” parliament and failing to declare the donation from Gavin Watson, CEO of Bosasa.
Mkhwebane had given Ramaphosa until Friday to respond to the report. The Sunday Times understands that the reason Ramaphosa’s office asked for an extension is because Mkhwebane appeared to have extended the scope beyond the original complaint.
This week, Ramaphosa’s supporters began a fightback. Senior ANC leaders discussed approaching the DA to withdraw its complaint and allowing the ANC to institute a probe into Mkhwebane’s fitness for office.
The Sunday Times can reveal that the money-laundering finding not only relates to the R500,000 but to other transactions in three bank accounts linked to the president.
Mkhwebane subpoenaed three bank accounts linked to Ramaphosa’s campaign after some members of his team declined to give details of the donors. She approached various banks, among them Standard Bank and Absa, for statements of the accounts. These accounts belong to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, a company linked to Ramaphosa, and the presidential campaign, CR17. The last account, which was used for the Bosasa donation, belongs to a trust administered by lawyers Edelstein Farber Grobler Inc.
Mkhwebane’s investigators analysed the inter-account transfers between January 2017 and February this year. The analysis led her to suspect that the president had used the accounts to launder money. She wants him to respond to her suspicions.
“The presidency will not comment on the contents of a section 7(9) notice as it is an offence to do so,” Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said, adding that they were preparing a comprehensive response to all the issues raised in the notice.
“This response is expected to be submitted to the PP in the next few days as the PP has acceded to a request by the president for an extension following delays caused by other pressing matters of state including the state of the nation address,” she said.
Ramaphosa’s long-time friend James Motlatsi revealed that it was he who had asked Watson for money and that Ramaphosa knew nothing about donations. Motlatsi said Mkhwebane asked him who the other donors were. “I said no, we have taken a decision that each and every donor will remain confidential,” he said.
A source close to the campaign and the presidency said Mkhwebane did not care if the money was not all used in the campaign. “Not all this money was fundraised for the campaign. Some of it is money for the foundation. But she does not appear to care. She has identified those transactions she believes were dodgy, and now she wants answers. My understanding is that the campaign managers have all these answers and can account for almost every cent.”
A second source in the campaign said the movement of money was “purely for logistical purposes”. Motlatsi said the campaign was set up so that donations would be above board. “The president didn’t know and we took a decision that he must not know,” he said.
Motlatsi’s affidavit to Mkhwebane detailed how he raised the Bosasa donation.
“I met with him [Watson] and told him ‘I am one of Cyril’s campaigners’. I said ‘I want you to put money’. He said ‘sure’. I said to him ‘I don’t want money from your company’. He said ‘I am going to donate not less than R500,000’,” Motlatsi said.
Motlatsi said Ramaphosa “made a mistake” in his answer to parliament.
Mkhwebane used a 2011 high court judgment allowing the public protector to extend an investigation if new facts emerged to justify her further investigation of Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa’s allies have asked why Mkhwebane did not use the same judgment to expand the scope of the Estina dairy farm investigation that was linked to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
“This was not about investigating whether Ramaphosa lied to parliament or not. This is not even about the R500,000. This is about throwing mud at the president,” the second source said.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, declined to comment on the preliminary findings. He also denied that Mkhwebane had extended the scope of her investigation.
“Mr Maimane’s complaint was threepronged: alleged misleading of parliament, alleged conflict between the president’s official duties and private interests, and alleged money laundering,” said Segalwe.
The president was advised to postpone a special ANC national executive meeting last week because “attacks against him would have overshadowed [the state of the nation address in parliament]”.
The Sunday Times has learnt that senior ANC leaders met on Friday to discuss the party’s approach to an inquiry into Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. There are worries, however, that the issue could split the ANC caucus and that Magashule would oppose any action against Mkhwebane.
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise referred the DA’s request to institute removal proceedings against Mkhwebane to the justice and correctional services portfolio committee. It is expected to be at the top of the committee’s agenda.
Several ANC leaders said there had been consultations about the party writing to the speaker with its own request to investigate Mkhwebane. They are also seeking legal opinions. “The only way a motion for her removal can pass with a two-thirds majority is for the ANC to lead the process. There is already division on the matter and if you ask ANC MPs to vote on the DA’s motion, it will cause further problems. We know that there will be some ANC MPs from the Ace faction who will vote against the motion even if it comes from us,” said a senior party leader.
A pending Constitutional Court judgment on Mkhwebane’s application against a ruling requiring her to personally pay part of the Reserve Bank’s legal costs in the Bankorp matter is expected to leave parliament with no option but to investigate her competence, if the court finds against her.
The Sunday Times understands there is disagreement among the judges on aspects of the judgment and this has held up its delivery. The application was heard in November and is expected to be part of a series of damaging findings against Mkhwebane.
Source: Sunday Times