ANC’s failure to probe Malema’s money: A case of ‘everybody’s doing it, so why can’t Juju?’

2011-08-30 11:54

Why is the ANC ignoring its youth leader Julius Malema’s alleged involvement in corruption, fraud and money laundering?

Whatever happens to him during or after the governing party’s disciplinary hearing, Malema is in much deeper trouble if allegations about the funding of his bling lifestyle are true.

The toughest censure Malema then faces is not expulsion from a political party, but a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.

To recap: Six weeks ago, Malema attempted to interdict City Press from publishing details about the alleged criminal use of his secret Ratanang Family Trust.

Malema was the sole trustee when the trust was registered in 2008 and his five-year-old son, Ratanang, the only beneficiary. His grandmother, Sarah, was added as a trustee last year.

In our first article, City Press revealed the existence of the trust, the fact that the trust did not have cash-flow problems which enabled it to buy a farm cash for R900 000 last year, and published an interview with a businessman from Limpopo who claimed that he had paid R200 000 into the trust for Malema in exchange for him facilitating a Limpopo government tender.

Malema and his allies made much of the fact that the trust was not “secretly” registered with the master of the high court. That is not the point.

The trust was secret for at least two reasons: whenever questioned about his accumulation of wealth and sources of income in the past, Malema not once referred to the trust.

Secondly, if City Press’s original source’s version of events is true (and we believe it is), the trust has been used as a secret vehicle to fund Malema’s lifestyle through government tenders.

Four days before publication of the article, Malema told journalists at Luthuli House he was a private citizen and his personal finances were none of their business.

This was in reaction to reports that he was building a R16-million house in Sandown. “I am a private person and not bound to be investigated like publicly elected officials,” he said at the press briefing.

Three days later that defence was shot down by Judge Colin Lamont, ruling in favour of City Press to publish the damning details about Malema’s trust.

In his ruling, Lamont said: “The applicant (Malema) has a right not to be defamed. I however must take into account also the right of the public to receive information.

“The applicant in the present matter is a high-profile public figure. He has made controversial statements at times. At present there is a discussion in the press concerning whether or not his income justifies his expenses. The question of the income of the applicant is topical and is relevant to that issue.

“The public is entitled in general terms to have full disclosures concerning persons who stand in a public position and who are high-profile personalities, who invite comment about themselves.”
Lamont then set out the judicial test for when a person becomes a “public person” and loses some of his or her rights to privacy.

“It is apparent that the applicant (Malema) is a public person and that the intrusion into his private life would be warranted. The aspects of his private life which are considered are in the public interest in that they are topical and concern attempts to cast light upon claimed inconsistency in the applicant’s lifestyle.”

With this Lamont effectively took away Malema’s stock defence whenever questioned about his lifestyle: he was indeed not a private citizen.

Shortly after the trust was revealed, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu was quoted as saying the allegations were “very serious” and “concerning” and that Malema would have to answer to the party.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe echoed Mthembu by saying Malema would be subjected to the “internal processes to establish whether there was any truth to the reports”.

He added: “Corruption is a criminal offence and any person alleged to be corrupt should be charged, investigated, arrested and convicted.”

To date, there has been no indication that the ANC has subjected Malema to “internal processes to establish whether there was any truth” to reports he was using his family trust to receive bribes from Limpopo businessmen.

Instead, Malema this week faced disciplinary charges relating to incitement against the Botswana government, sowing division in the ANC and disrupting a meeting of senior ANC leaders.

A careful reading of the ANC’s constitution shows that the party could have charged him with offences relating to his lifestyle, trust and shareholding in a company that benefits from multimillion-rand government tenders.
It chose not to.

Section 25.5 of the ANC’s constitution sets out the reasons for which disciplinary proceedings may be instituted against a member of the party. At least three subsections could have been invoked, had the ANC chosen to act against Malema’s seemingly dubious money-dealings.

» Subsection (f) states that a member who “abuses” his elected office in the ANC “to obtain any direct or indirect undue advantage or enrichment” may be disciplined (Malema is allegedly abusing his powerful position in the party to influence the awarding of tenders and political processes);

» Subsection (g) states that a member who behaves “corruptly in seeking or accepting any bribe for performing or not performing any task” may be disciplined (this is a separate charge from being convicted by a court of law, which means the ANC could have investigated allegations of corruption against Malema itself);

» Subsection (u) states that a member who gives, collects or raises funds “for campaigning activities within the ANC aimed at influencing the outcome of a conference of meeting” may be disciplined (City Press revealed that On-Point Engineers, a tender-rich company in which the Malema family trust owns shares, paid money towards the youth league’s 2010 National General Council).

So why is the ANC turning a blind eye to Malema’s money-dealings? Why did the party choose to charge Malema only with “political” issues?

An obvious answer is the fact that party president Jacob Zuma is himself tainted by corruption allegations that were controversially dropped in 2009 after a “political solution” was reached between prosecutors and Zuma’s legal team, with the assistance of police crime intelligence.

How can a father discipline his son for something he himself may be guilty of? It is just too risky for the ANC and Zuma to go after Malema for corruption.

A more ominous explanation would be that corruption has become normal in South Africa; that the ANC believes saying nasty things about Botswana or white people from a public stage are more serious contraventions than potentially robbing the poor of Limpopo from money and services.

Or it could be both – that it is plainly too risky for the ANC and its senior leaders to open the corruption closet in fear of all the skeletons that may come tumbling out. And that everybody’s doing it, so why can’t Juju?

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