Juju's trust fund: Charity yes -- bribes no, says ANCYL
The African National Congress Youth League on Monday alleged the Ratanang family trust is no secret and is used solely to fund charitable causes supported by its president Julius Malema.
The league was addressing a press conference at Luthuli House in Johannesburg without Malema, after a damning City Press article that revealed how Malema is allegedly accepting money into a trust account, named after his son Ratanang, apparently in return for organising government tenders for unscrupulous businessmen.
The City Press article’s source is an unnamed businessman who said he had paid as much as R200 000 into the account after Malema sent him account details and instructions following a successful tender deal.
“The trust is not a secret fund and all honest media and South Africans are fully aware that it is not a secret fund, ” said the league’s secretary general, Sandiso Magaqa, flanked by deputy president Ronald Lamola and treasurer Pule Mabe.
Malema himself was conspicuously absent.
The league said Malema’s absence from the briefing was to prevent the media from victimising him. “An attack on Malema is an attack on the youth league—you are attacking the man, now we are here to clarify the organisation’s standpoint,” said Lamola.
“Don’t come here with sponsored views of corruption—the trust money is used for charitable deeds,” Magaqa added.
Magaqa was referring to the trust’s building of a church in the Seshego township outside Polokwane in Limpopo, referred to in the City Press article, as well as its contributions towards the funding of housing for the poor, and the purchase of school shoes and learning material.
This is far from Malema’s only charitable endeavour. In 2010 Malema promised to buy 200 pairs of shoes for Limpopo schoolchildren, but after the shoes failed to materialise, it was left to former Springbok captain Bob Skinstad to step in to see the pupils suitably shod.
Similarly, a school in KwaZulu-Natal was left waiting for months after Malema had promised to provide it with wheelchairs for disabled pupils. The youth league eventually delivered on Malema’s promise of wheelchairs after media reports that he had not honoured his pledge.
‘Media is being controlled’
The league maintains that the reports surrounding Malema’s financial affairs are part of a media campaign funded by the business sector to undermine the league’s call for the radical changes to the South African economy.
“There is a concentrated effort to distract us from our agenda,” Magaqa said. “This is funded by those who suck the blood of African people and the media is owned by right-wing whites who peddle liberal views of apartheid,”
This was in reference to the league’s controversial call, championed by Malema, for the nationalisation of mines and expropriation of land without compensation.
On Saturday, the league had asked the South Gauteng High Court to prevent the article from being published, arguing Malema’s image would be tarnished by allegations they regarded as untested.
The application was dismissed with costs by Judge Colin Lamont, who ruled that Malema was a public figure and as such it was in the public’s interest for the media to report on his financial affairs.
“We went to court [on Saturday] to prevent lies from being spread about us. We were worried about the amount of lies they were going to feed to the public as stories can result in many lies. The source remains nameless and we are not even sure they exist,” Mabe said on Monday.
The league added that if the City Press source who allegedly paid bribes into the Ratanang trust indeed existed, he or she should also be subjected to an investigation.
“This R200 000 bribe must be handled by law enforcement agencies, because when there is allegations of corruption, there is always a person receiving a bribe, and a person that is paying the bribe,” Made said.
‘Malema remains private’
The report also followed a Sunday Independent investigation that revealed Malema’s plans to spend up to R16m on rebuilding his house in Sandown in Johannesburg—an allegation the youth league president did not dispute.
Malema has refused to divulge how he is funding the renovations, nor has he offered any details about his income, saying he is a private person and not bound by the law to do so—an argument the youth league repeated on Monday, saying their president would never offer details of his expenditure nor answer to question about his lifestyle.
“We never disputed the fact that he is a public figure but we argue that he is not a public representative and does not need to be scrutinised like a member of parliament or a government minister. This trust was used for charity and nothing else,” Lamola said.
Calls to act
The report put Malema in a tough position as it effectively claims there is evidence of corruption and tenderpreneurship involving Malema—exactly the sort of activity he has vehemently denied being a part of.
The reports into his lifestyle and the trust have led to opposition parties, including the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Freedom Front Plus (FF+), calling for a comprehensive lifestyle audit to be conducted by SARS.
Civil rights group Afriforum went a step further on Monday, laying a charge of corruption against Malema at the Brooklyn police station in Pretoria.
The calls to act on these reports have even extended to ruling party allies with tripartite alliance member the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) adding its voice to calls for an investigation into Malema’s affairs.
So far, this call has not been acted upon, with the government stating it would allow the law to take its course.
“Government does not have a “Julius” programme—The normal course of justice will apply to Julius Malema,” said government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday.
Whatever happens, the youth league remains unequivocal in its support of its president and maintains it will continue pursuing its agenda of economic transformation.
“Our task is to champion the needs of the youth and poor and we won’t be distracted with petty allegations like this,” Magaqa concluded.