From China to Krugersdorp: Andile Ramaphosa and the Bosasa 'billions'

2019-03-27 08:14
Andile Ramaphosa is seen with Shanduka employees. (Lauren Mulligan, Gallo Images, Sunday Times, file)

Andile Ramaphosa is seen with Shanduka employees. (Lauren Mulligan, Gallo Images, Sunday Times, file)

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Andile Ramaphosa, the son of President Cyril Ramaphosa, has a far closer relationship with corruption-accused facilities management and security company Bosasa than he and his father have been willing to admit - until now.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, Ramaphosa Jr confirmed key details of a News24 investigation spanning several months which lifts the lid on the secretive relationship between one of the country's most controversial companies and a son of the president.

Ramaphosa Jr's Blue Crane Capital netted around R2m in accumulated monthly payments from the Krugersdorp company since February 2018, he confirmed.

This was paid in monthly amounts, starting at R150 000 in February 2018, and later increasing to R230 000. By December 2018, when Ramaphosa Jr terminated the contract with Bosasa, his company had invoiced Bosasa a total of R2m.  

EXCLUSIVE: Andile Ramaphosa admits Bosasa paid him R2m

In exchange, Ramaphosa Jr provided "advisory" work on a series of more than 20 government and private contracts in Uganda and Kenya he had identified and partnered with Bosasa to execute, potentially worth "billions" of rand by his own admission.

He later backtracked on the figure of "billions" in written responses to follow-up questions after the interview, saying the projects had never been properly valued.

"The reality is none of the pipeline projects were ever valued. Upon success in converting a significant portion of the pipeline, the projects would have certainly been worth a significant amount in revenue over a period. Conversely, we have lost millions of rand in other pipeline projects as a result of the fallout from this matter," he told News24.

ALSO READ: Bosasa CEO's 'hidden' R500K donation to Ramaphosa deconstructed

Ramaphosa Jr has now stated he regrets entering into a business agreement with Bosasa, and admits a lack of oversight and due diligence led to him missing crucial red flags the allegations of corruption raised.

But, this investigation shows, the explanation may not be that simple.

Riding shotgun on the more than 20 projects was the world's second-biggest surveillance and security equipment manufacturer - China's Dahua Technology.

Ramaphosa Jr intended to bring the company's products into the African market.

With the "pipeline" of projects in his back pocket, all Ramaphosa Jr needed was a business partner with a proven track record of handling big projects.

And so, despite the glaring red flags a simple Google search would have revealed, Ramaphosa Jr and Dahua settled on Bosasa.

Over and above bringing the projects to the table, Ramaphosa Jr may have brought another factor to bear: His influence.

A text message from Bosasa employee Riaan van der Merwe, who worked closely with Dahua, to former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi on March 14, 2017 reads:

"Hi Angelo. Dahua wants to set up an (sic) private appointment with you to meet Andile Ramaphosa to structure a relationship/joint venture for the companies to tender on projects and they will use their influence to secure projects. They are looking for a strong trustworthy partner that can deliver results, Please advise on the way forward."

He adds that "they" wanted to meet the following week.

Agrizzi responded: "No problem let's do it."

Van der Merwe, himself a long-time player in the security technology industry, confirmed the message was authentic.

Ramaphosa Jr said: "I refute that completely. It was not about relying on the level of influence I could exercise, that is not how I do business or have conducted myself in the past. We had put together a very compelling solution, backed by up a team of very capable individuals, technical and operational partners. We were confident on our ability to deliver."

A picture of a meeting scheduled for March 14, 2017 on Agrizzi's MS Outlook calendar was also obtained by News24. The meeting was created by Wang.

andile ramaphosa

A picture Riaan van der Merwe took of a meeting between Andile Ramaphosa and Bosasa, specifically Angelo Agrizzi, scheduled for March 2017. The meeting, Ramaphosa said, never took place. 

By December 2017, 10 days before the ANC's historic and highly contested national elective conference at Nasrec, during which Cyril Ramaphosa was voted in as president of the party, Ramaphosa Jr had put pen to paper on an "advisory mandate" with Bosasa.

Now he claims this is something he "sincerely regrets".

The Bosasa scandal has dogged the president's term in office since it emerged that Gavin Watson, the company's CEO, donated R500 000 toward his ANC presidential campaign in October 2017.

By February 2018 to date, only one out of the 21 envisaged projects was ever completed Ramaphosa Jr said; the installation of solar panels at petrol stations owned by two large multinational oil companies in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

The completion of this project resulted in the jump in the monthly fee, which would have continued to rise as more projects were realised.

Ramaphosa Jr admitted that both he and his company missed crucial red flags surrounding Bosasa, and that he has learned a "painful" lesson on choosing business partners. 

"It was a severe oversight on our part," he said.

"It is clear now with the benefit of hindsight that our due diligence was insufficient in retrospect of my father's role going into the Presidency," Ramaphosa Jr said in a written response to follow-up questions.

A timeline showing the origins of Ramaphosa Jr's relationship with Bosasa however, portrays a different story far removed from his version, which equates to "I made a mistake."

In fact, the opposite may be true.

Krugersdorp goes Global

In June 2017, within two months of the first known meeting between Ramaphosa Jr, Dahua and Bosasa in April of the same year, the company underwent a major makeover, changing its name to African Global Operations.

 Its security arm, subsidiary company Sondolo IT, also took on a new facade, becoming Global Technology Systems.

Conceivably, the rebranding was a bid to escape long-standing allegations of corruption associated with the Bosasa name, which have been in the public domain since 2009.

The company denied this and issued vague notifications devoid of any reasons for the change to its suppliers and staff. 

bosasa

A picture of a letter informing the reader of Bosasa's name change being effective as at 26 June 2017. 

During the interview, Ramaphosa Jr said Bosasa was already in the process of expanding into Africa when he met them in "mid-2017" but they were struggling with the "how".

News24 discovered that Ramaphosa Jr was introduced to Bosasa by the head of Dahua in South Africa, Fritz Wang.

Wang has since returned to China. News24 could not immediately reach him for comment.

Coincidentally - similarly to Blue Crane - Bosasa was also developing "smart city" technology to take to the market, also with Dahua, Ramaphosa Jr explained.

Blue Crane had been working with Dahua on tech solutions since early 2016.

The 5ha office park that serves as Bosasa's head office in Krugersdorp was refitted with Dahua smart city technology, and renamed the Smart Global Campus, also around the time Ramaphosa Jr is known to have been introduced in early 2017.

This was in aid of the entire office park being used as a "showroom" to illustrate AGO's abilities with the Dahua tech.

The sweeping change was then, simply, a reflection of the company's newfound vision of taking its business across borders and into the heart of Africa initiated well before Ramaphosa Jr arrived on the scene, the parties involved claim.

Taking into account the timing of this major change and the discovery that the first meeting between Ramaphosa Jr, Dahua and Bosasa took place in March 2017 - two months before the name change in June 2017 - it is far more likely that at the centre of Bosasa's shift to an "African" and "Global" outlook was the "pipeline" of 21 East Africa projects brought to the table by Ramaphosa Jr , and the global aspect brought onboard by Dahua.

Ramaphosa Jr denied this.

"By the time we entered into a relationship, AGO had already been formed, as evident in the contract we entered into. The agreement was between us and AGO, not Bosasa," Ramaphosa Jr said.

"We did query the reason behind the name change and found it consistent with the management's rationale to reposition and rebrand their businesses as a precursor to expanding their operations to other geographies," he added.

"At no point in time did we enter into a business relationship with AGO or anybody with corrupt intentions or desire to subvert the law or due process for our monetary benefit."

Spokesperson for Bosasa, Papa Leshabane, referred queries to liquidator Cloete Murray, who did not respond to text messages and calls seeking his comment.

Van der Merwe, who sent the text message to Agrizzi over Ramaphosa, was hired to work to work for GTS (then named Sondolo IT) in January 2016.

andile ramaphosa

A screenshot of the text message Riaan van der Merwe sent to Angelo Agrizzi regarding a meeting Dahua Technology wished to set up with Andile Ramaphosa.

"The influence happens obviously from a manufacturer perspective," Van der Merwe told News24 on Friday when questioned over the meaning of his text.

"You call it a push and pull scenario. If a manufacturer ends up dealing with, let's say [a major retailer], and they like the Dahua product, but Dahua doesn't do installations.

"Where the influence comes in is Dahua would say I have a couple of people I can recommend, which we call preferred installers. Those guys need to have lots of training in order to make sure Dahua doesn't burn themselves by recommending the wrong person, and that's what I mean by they will use their influence," Van der Merwe said.

"At that stage I didn't have an idea who Ramaphosa was anyhow. To me that's just another African dude that's going to be somewhere in politics. Later on I found out... I don't watch or follow the news. I just did my work as I was required to do, I wasn't building relationships or getting any advantages from anything in this process," he added.

The entire Bosasa/Ramaphosa debacle started with a single line in an affidavit by former Bosasa auditor, Peet Venter. He mentioned that he had been instructed by Watson to pay R500 000 into an account belonging to the Andile Ramaphosa Foundation.

Ramaphosa Jr denied having any knowledge of the payment, and denied that any such foundation existed. News24 also could not find any clues to the existence of such a foundation.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa's son denies receiving R500 000 Bosasa payment 

This emerged to be false, as the account in question was actually an attorney's trust account held by Edelstein Farber Grobler, a law firm in Sandton.

President Ramaphosa was forced to backtrack on his original response in Parliament last year when confronted with the Venter affidavit, during which he said he was aware of the payment to his son. 

In writing a week later, he corrected his response, saying the funds were actually paid into the account held by EFG, which was the account utilised for donations toward his ANC presidential campaign, CR17. 

President Ramaphosa is under investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who must now determine whether or not he purposefully lied to Parliament. 

It is for this reason that the cost of Ramaphosa Jr's dalliance with Bosasa is yet to be fully realised.

ALSO READ: 'There is no link' - Ramaphosa campaign law firm dismisses Trillian, Gupta claims

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

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Read more on:    bosasa  |  andile ramaphosa  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  state capture inquiry  |  state capture
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