ANALYSIS: Ramaphosa's donors are hanging him out to dry

2019-08-05 10:51
President Cyril Ramaphosa Photo: Jaco Marais

President Cyril Ramaphosa Photo: Jaco Marais (jaco marais)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa is in real trouble.

His government reform project is stalling, and there's no better example of this than Eskom, where things just aren't working out. Plans to reconfigure the country's single most important parastatal are stuck in the mud of bureaucracy, ideological and political squabbles and a lack of management leadership.

He is facing an assault from inside and outside the ANC. His political opponents in the party are mobilising against him at every single opportunity, with secretary general Ace Magashule seemingly making common cause with opponents outside formal party structures.

The Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who seems intent on creating as much discord and chaos as possible, is steering the country towards a constitutional crisis, thereby playing into the hands of Julius Malema's anarchic EFF. (Mkhwebane has now firmly established herself as a political actor and has located her office squarely in the environment of power politics.)

And now the issue of donor funding – exploited to the hilt by Mkhwebane and the EFF – is undermining Ramaphosa's integrity and ability to govern. His enemies are taking advantage of the veil of secrecy partially lifted by the revelations that Bosasa's Gavin Watson donated – and the Ramaphosa campaign accepted – an amount of R500 000 towards Ramaphosa's election as ANC leader.

Over the weekend News24 published details of leaked emails that have been in circulation that showed that Ramaphosa was more deeply involved than his campaign team has previously let on. The emails show how he was consulted on who to ask for money and that he wrote notes instructing how funds should be deposited.

That is of course not illegal.

But it's the secrecy and lack of transparency that are undoing the president and his team. Because it allows questions about improper influence and illegality to swirl.

READ: Daniel Silke - Ramaphosa needs to be read the riot act

Mkhwebane's report into the Watson donation and whether he lied to Parliament, as she has found, will be reviewed in court.

Meanwhile it's open season on Ramaphosa and the "new dawn". He is being accused of being just as deceitful as his predecessor in the Union Buildings, while the reputation of the Public Protector's office is being used to push the country towards a situation where an investigation into Ramaphosa will become a real possibility.

One way to take the sting out of the whole dreary mess is for those donors who did make sizable contributions to the Ramaphosa campaign to come forward and declare how much they gave, why they did so and what they expect in return.

There were many vehicles and ways in which prominent businessmen, philanthropists and industrialists channelled money to Ramaphosa.

And these men and women seemingly did so because they were not supportive of the status quo to be maintained under Ramaphosa's opponent, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

If they made these donations with the country's interests at heart without expecting anything in return, as some have indicated, now is the time to own it and declare their involvement.

If these donors, even if they are from the winelands region in the Western Cape, openly explain why they felt it necessary to fund a successful Ramaphosa campaign, it will go a long way to disarm the inevitable attacks. They need to be open and honest about constitutionality, the rule of law, the scourge of state capture and fears about a South Africa if things do not change drastically.

The names and details of these donors are going to be revealed. Mkhwebane has already had access to documents which show how the Ramaphosa campaign operated, and there's no doubt there's more to come.

The cache published by News24 is a fraction of a fraction of what's out there. And the Public Protector's ominous warning about one single donor that made the largest contributions – of which the smallest is in the region of R30m – should be taken to heart. Further details will be leaked. It's just a matter of time.

Bank statements showing the names of donors, or the depositor's bank account details or any other descriptor, will be seized on by the EFF, Mkhwebane and their interlopers.

And the media will continue to interrogate whatever pieces of information comes across their collective desks to try and determine if there were any other Watson-esque donations and what its significance is.

The immediate reaction will be hysterical and should be expected. But by being open and transparent it enables the donors to take charge of the narrative. And the background noise will die down, as it always does.

The fact that hundreds of millions of rand were spent on an internal party campaign – academic Anthony Butler believes it to be north of a billion – is obscene. Those who have donated to Ramaphosa, and those who have donated to Dlamini-Zuma, should make declarations out of their own volition.

If they don't, they will be complicit in maintaining a political environment sustained by allegations of spying, innuendo and character assassination.


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