Could Bosasa payment impact on 2019 elections?

How far the possible influence of Bosasa extended following a payment to Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC President campaign remains a key issue and one that could affect voters at the 2019 election, according to one analyst. 

“Assuming that it is the truth [that Ramaphosa had not personal knowledge of the donation], then he didn’t know and the donors were unable to call back favours from him personally,” said Ivor Sarakinsky, who is an Associate Professor at the School of Governance at the University of Witwatersrand.

“…But the campaign people knew and that means the possibility exists that the donors could raise issues…with a slant to get some kind of payback.”

As such, the attempt to insulate Ramaphosa doesn’t mean it will prevent influence peddling…” he said.

This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa backtracked on a response he gave before the National Assembly eleven days ago over a R500 000 payment from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, allegedly for the benefit of his son, Andile.

Pay back

The October 2017 payment was actually a donation towards his ANC presidential campaign that Ramaphosa stated was made without his knowledge.

In a media statement issued over the weekend, the former CR17 management team announced that it would return the donation, as well as audit its donor list.

READ: Ramaphosa's campaign team says it will pay back Bosasa money

On the one hand, Sarakinsky said that the campaign team’s announcement that the money would be returned to the donors was a “good start to rebuild trust”.

On the other hand, this incident could exacerbate current public dissatisfaction with the current political landscape in the country.

“The outcome is that the public are just watching this closely; they are not seeing a clear distinction in the parties, leading to more cynicism and public distrust.”

Voter turnout issues

Going into the 2019 national elections, Sarakinsky posited to “watch closely for voter turnout” – suggesting that if there was a decline, it would indicate the current doubts of South Africans.

On Friday, the presidency released a statement that Ramaphosa had now written to the National Assembly speaker to change his response in accordance with the revelation that the money in fact was a campaign donation.

READ: Ramaphosa corrects his National Assembly reply on his son's dealings with Bosasa

 “The problems isn’t him writing a letter to the speaker; it is a question of whether he is telling the truth,” Sarakinsky pointed out.

Furthermore, Sarakinsky suggested said that the DA’s role, especially with regard to its leader Mmusi Maimane, in bringing the issue to the fore had several dimensions to it.

“Maimane’s ratings compared to Ramaphosa are abysmal...The only way Maimane can establish [himself] is to attack and undermine Ramaphosa.”

In this context, “this Bosasa issue is a golden gift” Sarakinsky added.

Sarakinsky said that he believed it was most likely that the information about the donation was given to the DA from an ANC faction opposing Ramaphosa.

“My gut feeling is that it was leaked from the ANC using the DA to have a serious shot at Ramaphosa.”

If this scenario was correct, it suggested that the factionalism within the ruling party was “getting stronger; it’s intensifying”, he added.

Hyprocrisy within the DA

He also proposed, there was a “chronic outbreak of hypocrisy” in the DA’s positioning of itself in relation to this situation.

Sarakinsky pointed out that during the 2015 race to establish the leader of the DA, another candidate, Wilmot James had made the funding of his campaign public.

“He challenged Maimane the other contender to do the same.  Both refused point blank.”

At the time, Maimane responded to the challenge saying that had complied with all internal protocols regarding donors, and the call for public exposure was a way for James to get media coverage.

Yet, “we still don’t know who funded the campaign and the DA [as a whole], said Sarakinsky on Sunday.

Surely, “what is good for the goose is good for the gander,” mused the political commentator.

Suspect payment

Previously, Ramaphosa was asked about the payment made by Watson to his son Andile Ramaphosa by Maimane during questions in the National Assembly on November 6. 

Ramaphosa told the National Assembly he had asked his son about the payment and had established it was for financial consultancy services his son had provided.

At the time, Andile denied the specific payment ever reached him.

READ: DA calls for investigation into Ramaphosa family, Bosasa-relationship

Bosasa, now called African Global Operation, has been hit with allegations of corruptions related to government tenders.

Maimane said on Sunday that he was writing to the president to ask him to implement an inquiry into the whole saga as it implicated Ramaphosa and his family. 

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