Source confirms existence of Juju’s family trust and its modus operandi

2011-07-23 18:20

A very hot afternoon in Limpopo. After struggling for weeks to secure yet another appointment, I am here to meet a source for the third time in a few months in the hope that he might just help shed some light on one of the major mysteries in the country – ANC youth leader Julius Malema’s source of income.

City Press has been keenly pursuing this source because he has intimate knowledge of business and political dealings in Limpopo. The man is well connected and moves around Malema’s circle of friends and political allies.

We have lot of questions and information to verify since a small bronze plaque, bearing the name Ratanang Family Trust, found its way on to the wall of a church that Malema built in 2009 in honour of his late mother, Mahlodi.

When I first saw the picture of that plate, the name sounded familiar because the boy came to my attention way back in 2008 when I did a profile on Malema, titled the Rebel from Masakaneng.

In an hour-long interview, I ask the man whether he has heard of the Ratanang Family Trust before, what its purpose was and who the beneficiaries and benefactors were.

Enjoying a meal, occasionally looking uneasy but clearly willing to talk, he confirms the rumours that have been doing the rounds within Limpopo’s business and political circles since President Jacob Zuma officially opened the Seshego Baptist Church in October 2009.

When I asked him about the trust and its modus operandi, the seasoned businessman tells me “it is true” that the trust exists.

He is not sure when exactly it was registered, but it became “visible” late in 2008, a few months after the firebrand youth leader was elected ANC Youth League president.

The source, who has business interests across the province, says the trust’s account is held by Absa.

His company previously deposited R200 000 into the account as a reward to Malema after he negotiated a tender for him.

“It is not a friendly account. Once it (the account number) is sent, you must not waste time or fail to deposit within a given period,” says the source.

After agreeing to a fee with the youth leader before the tender was awarded, the youth league chief used his influence to secure it. Malema, says the source, then sent him the account number via an SMS asking him to deposit the money within three days.

After depositing, the businessman says, Malema sent him another SMS “thanking” him for having honoured his part of the deal.

He says senior politicians, companies, mayors, contractors and municipal managers deposit “thousands” of rands into that ­account in exchange for him facilitating deals, pushing their agendas or championing their political courses.

Those who are uncomfortable doing bank transactions simply bring hundreds of thousands of rands in cash to the league boss.

The businessman says he is aware of at least 20 “serious” businessmen in Limpopo and Gauteng who had been depositing money into the account.

He added that a few senior ANC politicians who had a “personal” interest in his nationalisation campaign, whose names were given to City Press, regularly deposited money into the account as well.

The source says most of the businessmen keep receipts to use as bargaining tools in future. According to the businessman, this is how the account functions.

Those who want Malema to use his influence to help them get a tender or protect them politically first deposit money into the account or negotiate a fee of between 30% and 50% of the total profit of the project.

Malema does not contribute towards operational costs, says the source, and wants his share as soon as payments are received from government departments or municipalities. After payments are received by the business people, he sends them SMSes and gives them time frames to pay.

Asked what would happen if businessmen failed to pay, the source said: “I do not see the reason why you wouldn’t pay. He will even insult you.”

If he secures a project worth R7 million, for example, Malema expects roughly a R2 million profit for the businessmen and at least 30% for himself.

The businessman gives me a list of people he says had previously deposited money into the trust. However, he insists they won’t help City Press because of fear of victimisation or loss of benefits.

He says “everybody” who does business with Malema, including senior politicians and companies, deposits money into that account.

The source believed “millions” pass through that account a year. He says while the trust is being used largely to fund Malema’s lifestyle, it is not his only source of income because some business people and politicians pay cash.

He says most of the business people funding Malema had benefited from multimillion-rand projects offered by the roads and transport, health, local government and housing departments in Limpopo.

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