A provisional report by the public protector bodes ill for Julius Malema and the defence raised by his business partner has only made it worse.
Why was Julius Malema gifted 50% of a company that had just won a potentially lucrative tender with the Limpopo provincial government? Because he is smart and well-connected, his business partner says.
- Read the public protector's full report here
"Mr Malema is an intelligent and resourceful person with many friends and acquaintances both here and internationally," Malema's business partner Lesiba Gwangwa told the office of public protector in response to a provisional report she provided to the parties involved at the end of July. "His personal, friendly relationships with business leaders across the globe have made him into an invaluable asset for any business."
Malema himself may not be thrilled with that praise-singing, though.
Releasing her final report into the company On-Point Engineering and the various instances of fraud, corruption and irregularity it was involved in, public protector Thuli Madonsela repeated what had been contained in a leaked provisional report: Malema was at first the sole trustee (and later a joint trustee, with his 83-year-old grandmother) of the Ratanang Family Trust. That trust was one of only two shareholders in holding company Guilder Investments. Guilder, in turn, owned On-Point.
And On-Point, Madonsela said on Wednesday, was most certainly dirty. It lied to win the contract in the first place, and once won, set up a structure to receive kickbacks. Of this, she said, there is "incontrovertible proof".
But Malema, at least at one point, seemed sanguine about the possibility of the dirty money being traced to him personally, and that he could be held liable. According to Madonsela's final report (named "On the Point of Tenders", in her usually punny fashion), Malema's lawyers responded to her draft report "in the main, noted that the public protector did not intend making a negative finding in respect of the conduct of Mr Malema and the Ratanag Family Trust". Malema also objected to not having been interviewed during the investigation – but declined such an interview when it was then offered.
However Gwangwa, in his response to the provisional report, drew the line from On-Point directly to Malema himself.
"Mr Gwangwa's response … confirms that he and Mr Malema made no distinction between Mr Malema as an individual and his position as a trustee of the Ratanang Family Trust, in respect of dividends paid and loans granted to it by Guilder Investments," reads the final report.
"According to Mr Gwangwa, Mr Malema was entitled to share in the proceeds of Guilder Investments. His explanation therefore confirms the view that the Ratanang Family Trust was merely used as a vehicle to channel funds directly to Mr Malema."
Funds channeled in order to secure Malema's influence on behalf of the company, one can safely presume, which could meet the requirements for a case of corruption against Malema.
Nor is that the end of Malema's problems regarding his business dealings in his home province. Her office is also currently investigating both the departments of health and human settlements in Limpopo, Madonsela said on Wednesday. Both the complaints at the root of those investigations involve Malema, or people with close ties to him.
As per her usual procedure with major reports, Madonsela took the time to point out some of the more ordinary issues her office deals with, such as the conclusion of an investigation that found the department of correctional services owes one of its employees R8 932.42 in lieu of leave it wouldn't let that employee take.
Currently also on the books are issues including a lack of payment for the expropriation of land containing graves, short payment for the transport of school children, a delayed salary upgrade for a teacher, the forced retirement of another teacher, and a lack of study leave for a government employee.