Andile Ramaphosa’s secret Bosasa cash and the mystery man who got the lion’s share

2020-02-23 07:42
Andile Ramaphosa.

Andile Ramaphosa. (Twitter)

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Andile Ramaphosa portrayed his business deal with corruption-accused company Bosasa as a forthright and honest mistake. But a News24 investigation shows that in his moment of contrition, he was not totally honest – he misstated how much and when he was paid and remained mum on the role his secretive business partner, John Mathwasa, played.


Two months before President Cyril Ramaphosa's son Andile Ramaphosa signed a contract with corruption-accused company Bosasa, it was already paying money into a bank account belonging to his company, Blue Crane Capital.

Ramaphosa Jr also netted an estimated R1.3m more than the R2m he previously claimed to have received and, a News24 investigation shows, misrepresented key facts relating to the Bosasa deal, including when he was first paid and the total amount his company received.

New documentary evidence, including financial records, seen by News24 shows:

  • In the initial months, the lion's share of the Bosasa money paid to Blue Crane Capital was paid to an opaque third party – a company named Offtake, owned by John Mathwasa.
  • Between November 2017 and February 2018, Bosasa paid Blue Crane R684 000, of which R386 000 was paid to Offtake. The money would be paid to Offtake within 24 hours of Blue Crane's receipt of it from Bosasa.
  • Ramaphosa Jr, through Blue Crane, was paid at least R342 000 in two payments dated November and December 2017. Both payments were made before he put pen to paper on an "advisory mandate" with Bosasa on December 6, 2017. A third payment of R171 000 on December 28, 2017, was made before an "anti-corruption and bribery" and bribery clause was added to the agreement and signed.
  • The first payment of R171 000 was made on November 7, 2017 but Blue Crane's first invoice (a R150 000 "retainer" plus R21 000 VAT) to Bosasa is dated November 16, 2017.
  • According to a source with intimate knowledge of Bosasa's financial affairs, Ramaphosa continued to be paid the monthly retainer throughout 2018 and at least once in 2019, while he claimed to have ended the business relationship in November 2018.

News24 sent questions to Ramaphosa Jr's known email addresses, attempted to contact him telephonically and via social media, alerted the Presidency to the query and physically dropped off printed copies of the questions at his known business and residential addresses in an attempt to get his version of events on record.

He did not respond.

Mathwasa read but did not respond to a text message sent to him this week in which his comment was also sought.

Admissions

By Ramaphosa's own admission, during an exclusive interview with News24 in March 2019, he was initially paid a R150 000 retainer per month, which increased to R230 000 after the first of a series of collaborative projects in East Africa was completed in early 2018.

The deal involved Chinese surveillance and smart technology manufacturer, Dahua Technology. News24 previously reported that Ramaphosa was paid the monthly retainer for bringing a "pipeline" of more than 20 projects to the table.

Dahua's then representative in South Africa, Fritz Wang, introduced Ramaphosa to Bosasa.

According to Wang's LinkedIn page, he returned to China last year and no longer works for Dahua.

Bosasa, or African Global Operations as it was renamed in mid-2017 shortly after the first meeting between Ramaphosa and Bosasa bosses, was to provide the technical expertise and boots on the ground to get the jobs done. Dahua provided the technology.

The first project completed, according to Ramaphosa, was the installation of solar panels at petrol stations owned by two large multi-national oil companies.

A second project, understood to have been the installation of fibre optic internet cables in Uganda, is also believed to have been completed.

Dahua does not manufacture solar panels.

The "pipeline" of projects was potentially, by Ramaphosa Jr's own admission, worth "billions". He later backtracked, saying the projects had never been properly valued.

He claimed he ended the business relationship in November 2018, after disclosures of serious allegations of corruption surfaced.  

New evidence suggests he received one final payment of R230 000 in 2019. Calculations based on these figures, and evidence of previously undisclosed payments, reveal that Ramaphosa's Blue Crane was paid around R3 385 000 – R1.3m more than he previously admitted to.

A source who has knowledge of the findings of liquidators who are winding up Bosasa and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that according to payments found in the Bosasa general ledger, it was actually R3.6m between 2017 and 2019.

Liquidator Cloete Murray, when asked to confirm the figures, said this week he could not, at this stage, comment "on any specific transaction, persons or institution that might have benefited from one or more of the companies until investigations have been properly concluded".

Murray confirmed that liquidators approached the high court earlier this year and succeeded in obtaining an order to establish an insolvency inquiry. Retired Judge Meyer Joffe has been appointed as the commissioner, and the confidential inquiry has the powers to subpoena individuals and companies to appear before it.

Murray would not confirm whether Ramaphosa Jr would be called to testify in future.

Ramaphosa Jr's involvement with Bosasa came to light during a question and answer session in Parliament in November 2018. Then DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked Ramaphosa Sr about a payment to his son.

This was contained in an affidavit by former Bosasa auditor, Peet Venter, who claimed late Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson had told him the R500 000 payment in October 2017 was for Andile Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa Sr said he saw the contract between his son and Bosasa and that he was assured it was above board.

It later transpired that the payment was, in fact, a donation from Watson to Ramaphosa Sr's 2017 ANC presidential campaign, CR17. 

It took News24 several months to secure the March 2019 interview with Ramaphosa Jr. When it occurred at the swanky offices that public relations guru Vincent Magwenya shares with PR powerhouse Brunswick in Rosebank, Ramaphosa Jr's business manager Gavin Singh also attended.

It was during this interview that Ramaphosa Jr stated that he had received R2m and Singh agreed with the figure. He later provided the same amount in an op-ed under his name, which the Sunday Times published, in which he also denied that the funds were a bribe.

The secretive third party

When details of the advisory mandate between Blue Crane and Bosasa first became public, it became clear that Offtake was also a party to the transaction.

Offtake's sole director, Mathwasa, signed the agreement on behalf of the company.

John Mathwasa, Offtake, Andile Ramaphosa

John Mathwasa. Photo: xarisdevelopments.com

It is clear from documents, which News24 has seen, that Offtake was paid the lion's share of the funds Bosasa paid to Ramaphosa Jr's company. The purpose of these payments remains unclear. It is also not known whether Bosasa paid Mathwasa's company directly or if payments were from Ramaphosa Jr.

Mathwasa is a long-time player in the telecommunications industry. He led the team that raised capital for Seacom, the privately owned company that installed a massive undersea fibre optic cable that connected large swathes of Africa and South Africa to faster internet in 2009, at a cost of an estimated $650m (roughly R7bn).

Ramaphosa Sr's company Shanduka was one of several private funders that invested in Seacom, resulting in it holding a reported 12.5% stake.

According to a biography on Australian energy company Xaris' website, Mathwasa is a "dot connector extraordinaire" who holds a master's degree in business administration from the University of Oxford.

He also previously worked for McKinsey and Co, and was "a co-founder of SKT, which was charged with turnkey engineering design, finance, construction and systems integration of data network infrastructure for MTN Group".

Ramaphosa Sr's extensive involvement with MTN is well documented. He served as the multi-national cell service provider’s board chairman for years, and through Shanduka, held considerable shares in MTN which were bought by the Public Investment Corporation for $230,993m in March and April 2015.

ALSO READ | The PIC took a R1.8-billion loss after it bought Cyril Ramaphosa’s company out of MTN Nigeria

Ramaphosa Jr is also married to Bridget Birungi who is reportedly close to former Ugandan prime minister Amama Mbabazi. Their 2018 wedding took place at his home in Kampala and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni attended.

Ramaphosa Jr previously told News24 that they met while they were both studying in China.

*Do you have a tip for our investigative journalists? Send an email to tips@24.com

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