African Access Holdings, EduSolutions’ multibillion-rand parent company, is a keen supporter of President Jacob Zuma through his charitable RDP Education Trust.
A photograph of African Access chief executive Shaun Battlemann alongside President Jacob Zuma and South Africa’s ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool, is proudly displayed on the company’s website.
The picture was taken at a fundraising dinner in Houston, Texas, in September last year. Battlemann attended it in his capacity as “champion of the trust”.
The dinner was held in the same week that the Southern University of Houston awarded Zuma an honorary doctorate for “his leadership as well as his passion for education through the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust”.
Another champion of the trust, controversial Nigerian-American oilman Kase Lawal, was also on hand to celebrate Zuma’s award.
Earlier this year, the Mail & Guardian reported on a partnership between Lawal’s company, Camac International, and Zuma’s education trust in which the company would sponsor trust beneficiaries to study at Texas Southern and another Houston university. The sponsorship comes on top of a five-year, R1-million-a-year Camac endowment to the trust, effective since 2010.
Before the trip to Houston, African Access stepped in to help Zuma fulfil a longtime promise to a dead comrade. In July last year the company donated more than R300000 for the construction of a house for the family of the late struggle veteran and “close friend” of Zuma, Shadrack Maphumulo.
On its website, African Access boasts of its partnership with the Zuma education trust in delivering the house. “Our passion to improve the quality of life in respect of vulnerable groups within communities has prompted us to include this project in the group’s corporate social investment programme.”
African Access counts among its former and current directors several well-connected businesspeople, including Seth Phalatse, its non-executive chairperson and the former chairperson of the state’s Strategic Fuel Fund, as well as several former government officials. (See graphic)
Battlemann denied claims that his connections had favoured his companies. He said: “It is not a crime to know people in government. It doesn’t imply corruption. Our success is based purely on merit and we should be judged for that.” – Sally Evans
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.