The Public Protector has found that President Cyril Ramaposa deliberately misled Parliament when he answered a parliamentary question about a payment received by the CR17 campaign from African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa.
In her bombshell report, advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane also found that there was “merit” in the suspicion of money laundering, because the payment passed through “several intermediaries, instead of a straight donation towards the CR17 campaign”.
Mkhwebane has notified the national director of public prosecutions, Shamila Batohi, of her findings for further investigation, she said.
At a press briefing on Friday, Mkhwebane said that Ramaphosa had deliberately misled Parliament “in that he should have allowed himself sufficient time to research on a well-informed response”.
“I therefore find President Ramaphosa’s conduct as referred to above, although ostensibly in good faith, to be inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet,” she said.
She has directed that Thandi Modise, the Speaker of Parliament, refer her finding that Ramaphosa violated the Executive Code of Ethics to the joint committee on ethics and members interests “for consideration”. Although Ramaphosa is not an MP, the committee could look into former MPs also, she said in response to a question.
On Ramaphosa’s donations, Mkhwebane said according to her investigation, over R191-million was deposited into the CR17 trust account between December 6 2016 and January 1 2018. Money was disbursed from this account to several beneficiaries, including the Ria Tenda Trust, Linked Environmental Services and Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation “to name a few,” she said.
Over roughly the same period, about R388-million moved in and out of the Ria Tenda Trust account and about R441-million moved in and out of the Linked Environmental Services’ FNB account, she said.
“Out of all the donations received for the campaign, records reflect that there were three single largest donations of thirty million rand … on March 2017; more than 39-million rand … on 29 September 2017 and over fifty one million rand … on the same date into the EFG2 ABSA trust account, which came from the same donor,” said Mkhwebane.
She said her preliminary view was that “such scenario, when looked at carefully, creates a situation of the risk of some sort of state capture by those donating these moneys to the campaign”.
In her remedial action, she directed the speaker to demand that Ramaphosa disclose who his funders were. In response to a question from the Mail & Guardian, Mkhwebane said the office of the public protector had the bank account numbers but it was for Ramaphosa to disclose the names associated with these accounts.
The president had also exposed himself to a situation involving the risk of a conflict of interest between his official duties and his private interest, she said.
“President Ramaphosa as a presidential candidate for the ANC political party, received campaign contributions which benefited him in his personal capacity. He was therefore duty bound to declare such financial benefit accruing to him from campaign pledges,” she said.
While political parties were under no express legal obligation to disclose the sources of their private funding, different considerations applied when it came to individual party members who were members of parliament or cabinet ministers at the same time.
“They cannot seek refuge behind the party political activity label,” she said.