24 June 2019

South Africa: Public Protector - We Have Not Extended Scope of Ramaphosa Probe

Photo: Public Protector
Public Protector house.

The Office of the Public Protector has denied that it extended the scope of its probe into a R500 000 donation by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson to President Cyril Ramaphosa to include possible money laundering linked to other donations to his campaign.

The spokesperson for Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Oupa Segalwe, told News24 the scope of the investigation had not been extended at all.

"We are only seized with the matter of the R500 000," he said. "We do not have the jurisdiction to investigate political funding," he added.

Bosasa, now named African Global Operations, has been accused of paying bribes for tenders since 2007, and more details of alleged corruption emerged during testimony before the Zondo Commission into state capture in January this year.

The Sunday Times reported this past week that Mkhwebane had subpoenaed bank statements from three accounts, including the attorney's trust account used to house the CR17 campaign donations, as well as a bank account belonging to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.

As a result, the newspaper reported, Mkhwebane was now looking into possible money laundering relating to transactions amounting to R400m.

These funds reportedly included transactions involving the Foundation's account.

Segalwe would not comment on specific reports including the Sunday Times front-page article, saying to do so would provide credibility to the reports, a perception the Office of the Public Protector wished to avoid.

"Money laundering is part of the complaint before the Public Protector. It was always part and parcel of what [DA leader Mmusi] Maimane asked her to look into. What we are not investigating is party political funding. We have dealt only with what Maimane brought before us," Segalwe added.

Watson must submit answers to a series of questions posed by Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa then has until Friday to provide a written response to Mkhwebane on a Section 7 (9) notice informing him of adverse findings against him.

Mkhwebane would apply her mind to Ramaphosa's response, and finalise the final report in due course, Segalwe confirmed.

News24 has previously reported how Watson planned to lobby former president Jacob Zuma to appoint a National Director of Public Prosecutions, and that Bosasa had donated millions to the ANC over more than a decade.

Ramaphosa came under fire for the Watson donation, after he responded to a question from Maimane in Parliament last year.

Maimane confronted Ramaphosa with an affidavit by former Bosasa auditor, Peet Venter, in which Venter claims to have made a R500 000 payment to the 'Andile Ramaphosa Foundation'.

Ramaphosa responded, saying he was aware of the issue and the payment was in connection with a contract his son Andile had with Bosasa.

Andile Ramaphosa however denied the payment was for his benefit.

Ramaphosa wrote a letter to then Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete to correct his oral reply later the same week. The money was actually a donation to his campaign, he said.

This debacle led to Maimane opening a complaint with the Public Protector.

The issues surrounding the R500 000 donation were clear, Segalwe explained.

In a statement issued on Monday, he clarified the investigation was into whether Ramaphosa breached the Executive Ethics Act by misleading Parliament, the nature of the relationship between the Ramaphosa family and Bosasa, and the facts surrounding the manner in which Watson made the donation to the CR17 campaign.

News24 previously reported the donation was made through Bosasa front company, Miotto Trading and Advisory, owned by Venter's sister, Margaret Longworth, in a manner that was designed to hide the origins of the payment.

When it came to alleged breaches of this Act, Segalwe explained, the Public Protector had little wiggle room. She was mandated to act on the complaints.

Segalwe said the Public Protector felt it necessary to react to reports in Business Day that the DA was seeking to distance itself from the money laundering facet of the investigation as Maimane's complaint had been clear on seeking answers to suspicions of money laundering.

Maimane issued a statement on Monday confirming his request that money laundering allegations needed to be probed.

News24

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