FACT CHECKED: DA claims over Bosasa/Ramaphosa contract denial misleading

Andile Ramaphosa at an engagement ceremony earlier in the year in Uganda. (File, Screenshot)
Andile Ramaphosa at an engagement ceremony earlier in the year in Uganda. (File, Screenshot)

Over the weekend, the Democratic Alliance (DA) released a press statement claiming that African Global Operations – previously known as Bosasa – had denied that it had any contract with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s son, Andile.

The claims are a distortion of the facts contained in African Global Operation’s response to the DA’s Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) request, and News24 has found that parts of the DA statement could be seen as misleading.

The reason for the DA’s chagrin at the response from AGO, formerly Bosasa, is due to a response by Ramaphosa to a supplementary question by DA leader Mmusi Maimane during a question and answer session in the National Assembly on November 6, 2018.

Ramaphosa stated that he had seen the contract between his son’s company, believed to be Blue Crane Capital, and Bosasa, and had satisfied himself that it was above board.

A scandal then erupted when Ramaphosa, on November 14, 2018, addressed a letter to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, in which he corrected his oral response.

Now, the president explained, he had since learned that the R500 000 payment in question was actually a donation that had been made to his ANC presidential campaign, of which he had previously been unaware.

This came in the wake of News24 revealing that Andile Ramaphosa had, hours after his father’s response in Parliament, denied in an exclusive interview that he had ever received this specific R500 000 payment.

He, in fact, confirmed that he had done work for Bosasa, but denied specifically that the R500 000 in question was paid to him.

News24 also previously revealed that the donation to Ramaphosa had been made by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, through a shelf company to a trust account operated by Sandton-based law firm, Edelstein Farber Grobler.

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

We have taken the DA statement as published on December 9, 2018, and scrutinised the claims. Here’s what we found:

DA/Maimane claim:

(Statement headline) "Bosasa denies contract exists with Ramaphosa Jr, despite president’s confirmation"

What we found

AGO, or Bosasa as it was previously known, did not deny that any contract exists between itself and Andile Ramaphosa.

Instead, in a letter by chairperson Joe Gumede in response to the DA’s PAIA request, AGO denies that a contract fitting the description the DA included in its request existed.

This is a key point of departure.

The DA’s PAIA request, dated November 8, 2018, specifically asked for: "The contract and invoice for R500 000 financial consulting services provided by the President’s son, Andile Ramaphosa, to Bosasa (now African Global Operations)."

Bosasa’s Gumede responded on December 6, 2018: "There exists no record that fits the description 'contract and invoice for R500 000 financial consulting services provided by the President’s son, Andile Ramaphosa, to Bosasa (now African Global Operations)'."

The reason for this is quite simple.

Bosasa has relied on the extremely narrow purview of the DA’s request to decline the PAIA application.

The exact wording of the request has allowed Bosasa a loophole through which it could decline to provide the requested information.

Bosasa is simply saying that it never finalised a contract with Andile Ramaphosa that fits exactly into the description of "R500k financial advisory services".

DA/Maimane claim:

"Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa telling Parliament last month that he had personally seen the business contract between Bosasa and his son, the embattled company has stated in writing that such a contract doesn’t exist."

What we found:

Bosasa’s response did not state that no contract existed between it and Andile Ramaphosa. As already explained, the response from AGO indicates that no contract in terms of how the DA described it exists. It does not deny that any contract exists. Here is the DA's PAIA request and AGO's response:


DA/Maimane claim (in tweet): 

[Ramaphosa] "Caught in a lie! Remember when President Cyril Ramaphosa said that he had seen the contract between #Bosasa and his son Andile Ramaphosa? In reply to @MmusiMaimane's PAIA application for access to this contract, the company’s chairman says that there is no such contract..." the DA Tweeted on Sunday.

What we found: 

This tweet could be construed as misleading, in that it does not provide any context as to what the DA had asked for and what Bosasa had responded with.

Again, the response to the DA’s PAIA request was limited to the exact description of the record as it had described it in the request.

At this stage the president and his son, Andile, have both stated that Ramaphosa Jr has a contract with Bosasa – and there is no evidence to suggest it does not exist, despite the DA’s claim that it does not.

Before that determination can be made, a full disclosure of any and all contracts between any company affiliated to Andile Ramaphosa and AGO, or any of its subsidiary companies must be made.

Ramaphosa’s complete turnaround on his oral reply to Maimane’s question on December 6, 2018, does leave many questions unanswered – the chief among which being why Ramaphosa decided to respond at the time, instead of ensuring he had all the facts available to him before he did.

ALSO READ: Hawks' Bosasa investigation to be finalised by December

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

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