/Clear and Present Danger – Ramaphosa, Bosasa and the Mkhwebane quandary

Clear and Present Danger – Ramaphosa, Bosasa and the Mkhwebane quandary

2019-06-09 07:00

As we watch ANC reserve bank policy battles between Ramaphosa and his secretary general Ace Magashule unfold on Twitter – over the same SARB mandate extension issue – the mist seems to be vanishing before the sun, writes Kyle Cowan.

“The President was
trapped – and with nearly every president, it had come about from his own
words. Presidential promises and statements… The people had this annoying way
of remembering them. And even if they didn’t, there were journalists and
political rivals never passed on chance to make the necessary reminders”.
Tom Clancy, Clear and Present Danger. 

It is now just a matter of days
before Public Protector Busiswe Mkhwebane releases her final report on President
Cyril Ramaphosa’s fateful words in the National Assembly over his son Andile’s
business ties with Bosasa.

Taking into consideration her
recent findings against one of Ramaphosa’s key men, Pravin Gordhan, over issues
she had questionable jurisdiction over, Mkhwebane represents arguably the
biggest threat to Ramaphosa’s presidency when this is coupled with rumours she
has issued Ramaphosa with a notice indicating an adverse finding against him.

We cannot be too quick to
forget that former president Jacob Zuma’s fate was, predominantly, sealed by
the previous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. We also cannot forget Mkhwebane’s
infamous dip in the pool of economics, when she recommended a change to the
mandate of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) on her report on the ABSA/Bankorp
issue, seemingly plucked from thin air.

Now, as we watch ANC reserve bank
policy battles between Ramaphosa and his secretary general Ace Magashule unfold
on Twitter – over the same SARB mandate extension issue – the mist seems to be
vanishing before the sun.

Then there are Mkhwebane’s
questionable links to the State Security Agency (SSA), the spooks who were
according to the Mufamadi panel report, repurposed by Zuma to fight factional
political battles. The battle lines are becoming increasingly clear, even if
the motivations are not pinned down with certainty.

Mkhwebane’s report into the
ABSA issue was struck down by High Court Judge Cynthia Pretorius.

“In the matter before us
it transpired that the public protector does not fully understand her constitutional
duty to be impartial and to perform her functions without fear, favour or
prejudice,” Pretorius’ judgment reads.

As News24’s editor for in-depth
news and political scribe Pieter du Toit wrote shortly after, Mkhwebane’s
conduct is “at best incompetent and negligent, and at worst calculating
and devious”.

Against this backdrop, enter
the Ramaphosa/Bosasa debacle. Here’s the lowdown.

In November 2018 during a
question and answer session in the National Assembly, DA leader Mmusi Maimane
confronted Ramaphosa with a signed affidavit by Peet Venter, a former auditor
of now well-known and corruption-accused facilities management company, Bosasa.

Venter alleges in the affidavit
he paid R500 000 to the “Andile Ramaphosa Foundation” on instruction
of Bosasa CEO, Gavin Watson in October 2017.

He even provides the proof of

Ramaphosa responded that he was
made aware of this issue, and had questioned his son Andile “at close
range” over the contract he had with Bosasa.

That same afternoon, Andile Ramaphosa
told News24 he has never seen a cent of the R500 000, revealing crucially, that
his father had responded incorrectly to the National Assembly. 

Turns out, Ramaphosa had the
wrong end of the stick. Days later, after News24 discovered the true owner of
the bank account on the proof of payment (Sandton law firm, Edelstein Farber
Grobler) and sending questions to the law firm in question, Ramaphosa sent a
letter to the speaker of Parliament, correcting his oral reply.

He explained, he got it wrong.
The R500 000 in question was never for his son, but a donation towards his CR17
ANC presidential campaign. The EFG account was used to house his campaign
donations, and he had only become aware of this when his campaign managers
pointed this out to him.  

This entire saga sparked a
complaint by the DA to the Public Protector, who was asked to probe whether
Ramaphosa wilfully misled Parliament.

Later, News24 discovered,
largely, the truth about Andile Ramphosa’s dealings with Bosasa, during which
he earned R2m in consultation fees for unlocking projects for Bosasa in West

If his son was found to be
involved in any corrupt deal, Ramaphosa famously told the National Assembly, he
would march Andile down to the police station, or jail, himself.

The words spoken by Ramaphosa
that day may yet prove fateful.

It is highly conceivable, and
in fact probable, that Mkhwebane will find against Ramaphosa, particularly if
she managed to obtain unseen evidence about the relationship between Ramaphosa
Jr and Bosasa and what the president knew when he responded to Maimane.

It is particularly hard, I am
told, to prove knowledge and intent on the part of Ramaphosa. Did he know the truth
about the affidavit brandished by Maimane that day?

Only the president knows for
sure. What we can safely say now, is an adverse finding against Ramaphosa will
give the Magashules and the Zumas of the ANC a big stick to beat the ‘new dawn’
faction into a corner.

Will Magashule’s skeletons,
that are tumbling from the closet, cause his tenure as secretary general to be
short lived, or will he outwit Ramaphosa with a little help from Mkhwebane?

Nothing is certain but this –
there will be blood on the floor before it is all over. 

– Cowan is an investigative journalist at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

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