Public Protector's 'counsel' helps Ramaphosa dodge Bosasa question

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

By taking the advice of Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, President Cyril Ramaphosa managed to dodge a question on corruption-accused Bosasa stuffing the ANC presidential campaign coffers.

In November 2018, DA leader Mmusi Maimane set the campaign-funding cat among the political pigeons when he waved a document about indicating Ramaphosa's campaign to become ANC president had received a donation from Bosasa.

During Thursday's question session, he again waved a document at Ramaphosa, this time a letter from the ANC to Bosasa.

In the letter, dated March 31, 2014, and addressed to Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, then-ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize acknowledge receipt of R3m from the company.

"On behalf of the African National Congress, I would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to your organisation for this donation and for the continued financial support and contribution your organisation renders to the ANC," Mkhize wrote.

"Your ongoing support for our organisation is appreciated."

At the bottom of the letter is the slogan: "The People Shall Govern!"

Before he showed the document, Maimane said the special investigating unit had found an improper and corrupt relationship between government officials and Bosasa in 2009.

"For the past 15 years, Bosasa has gleamed contracts of well over R12bn from various government departments," he added.

Furthermore, in 2013, the Treasury considered cancelling all Bosasa's contracts and blacklisting the company, which Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who raised funds for Ramaphosa's presidential campaign, would have known, as he was minister of finance at the time, Maimane said.

Then he showed Ramaphosa the letter, which was also distributed to the media in the press gallery.

"Now, Mr President, your organisation has received R3m, you were deputy president of the ANC at the time," Maimane said, cheered on by the DA, but jeered by the ANC.

READ: The ANC's R3m thank you letter to Bosasa

"If you are in possession of money gleamed from criminal activities, that is also a crime. So, what I want to know, Mr President, will you undertake today to ensure that the ANC repays to the fiscus all the money received from Bosasa over the past 15 years as those moneys were in fact derived from the proceeds of corruption?"

"Do you want some ice cubes for that burn!" a DA MP shouted.

Ramaphosa responded: "Honourable speaker, one of the observations made by the Public Protector, against me, was that when honourable - I almost said minister, not yet, maybe never to be - when honourable Maimane played the same gimmick the last time, the Public Protector in one of the paragraphs in her report said: 'Mr President, when that was done to you, you should have actually asked for a copy, and said I'd like to reflect on it and I will deal with it later'. And she said, that's what you should have done.

"She and I differ on the outcomes in her conclusions, but in this case I want to take her counsel, and say to honourable Maimane, please give me that letter, and I will get back to you," Ramaphosa said to cheers from the ANC benches.

Maimane then handed him the letter.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said the letter was only two paragraphs long, adding the DA would not mind to wait while he read it.

ALSO READ: CR17 leaks part of 'sinister agenda' - Ramaphosa

National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise said she would undertake to follow up on Maimane's behalf when the response came.

Maimane's original question was whether Ramaphosa will appoint a commission of inquiry into Bosasa to "further investigate all allegations of state capture".

Ramaphosa said this formed part of the work of the Zondo commission into state capture.

In a statement, Maimane said he welcomed Ramaphosa's undertaking to consider the letter.

"The president requested time to consider and reflect upon the letter and its contents, and to report back to Parliament in due course. In the interests of transparency and accountability, the president must respond to Parliament in writing within 14 days as to: Whether as ANC deputy president at the time, he was aware of the donation; and whether he will instruct the ANC to pay back every cent of money received from Bosasa over the past 15 years," Maimane said.

ALSO READ: We will run a 'clean shop' in our NHI Fund says Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Mkhwebane, after Maimane lodged a complaint with the Public Protector that Ramaphosa had misled Parliament with his response to the question he posed in November last year.

In Mkwhebane's report, it was found he had deliberately misled Parliament in November last year when he answered Maimane's questions about a donation from Watson.

Ramaphosa has taken the report on judicial review.

In March, during a similar question session, Ramaphosa refused to disclose how much his son Andile's contract with Bosasa was worth, and in the two debates following his State of the Nation Addresses in February and June this year, he did not say one word about Bosasa, despite opposition MPs hammering on the topic. 

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