Ramaphosa explains why he’s had trouble returning the R500K to Gavin Watson

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President Cyril Ramaphosa is seen during the announcement of a cabinet reshuffle, 22 November 2018, Union Buildings Pretoria. Photo: Jacques Nelles

President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally addressed why the R500,000 donation from controversial Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson has still not been repaid, also denying that he deliberately told a lie in parliament.

In his eight-page response to Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, Ramaphosa explained he was informed by his adviser in September 2018 about the rumour that his son Andile Ramaphosa had received a payment of R500,000 from Bosasa (now African Global Operations), which Andile said was made for “an Advisory Mandate for possible business activities in some East African countries”.

Andile’s company had, in December 2017, signed an anti-bribery and corruption policy that he instituted with all his clients “as a precautionary measure following [his father’s] election as president of the ANC in December 2017”.

Ramaphosa said Andile showed him copies of the advisory mandate and the anti-bribery and corruption policy, which, according to Ramaphosa, was when he first learnt of Andile’s relationship with the controversial company.

“From the way it was explained to me, and based on the Advisory Mandate and Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy, I had no reason to believe that there was anything untoward about the relationship,” said Ramaphosa.

Almost a year after seeing Andile’s contract, DA leader Mmusi Maimane asked Ramaphosa a question relating to a Bosasa payment of R500,000 in the National Assembly last year.

In a follow-up question to the president, Maimane claimed he had evidence of a questionable payment of R500,000 made to his son.

The president said he was aware of the business relationship Maimane was talking about but said it was legally instituted through a company Andile did business with.

“It was brought to my attention a long time ago and I proceeded to ask my son what this was all about. He runs a financial consultancy business and he consults for a number of companies, and one of those companies is Bosasa, where he provides services of entrepreneurship, particularly on the procurement process, and he advises both local and international companies,” he explained in the National Assembly during a question-and-answer session.

The president said at the time that if it turned out his son had lied about the payments being illegal, he would hold him personally accountable.

“I will be the first to make sure he becomes accountable, even if it means that I’m the one who will take him to the police station. That I will be able to do,” he said at the time.

Ramaphosa explained further in his response to Mkhwebane that it was after the parliamentary Q&A session had ended that his adviser informed him that the account Maimane was referring to was not Andile’s but an attorney’s account used by the CR17 campaign to raise funds for his party election campaign. Ramaphosa claimed he and his campaign managers had made a “deliberate” decision not to be involved in fundraising activities, but to only address meetings and and dinners with potential funders.

“We had decided that I would not be provided with the identity of donors or the amounts pledged, as I did not want to feel under obligation to them in any shape or form at any time in the future.”

As a result, he was not aware that he had received payment from Watson. This was when he decided to “correct” his response to Maimane in the National Assembly, he explained.

His campaign managers’ attempt to meet with Watson to return the money had supposedly been unsuccessful, and, as a result, the R500,000 was transferred into an attorney’s account “until such time as these matters surrounding Global African Operations are clarified following various concerning disclosures before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture”.

Thereafter, he said he would make a decision on whether the money should be returned to Watson, passed on to appropriate government authorities or be donated to a charity.

Vhahangwele Nemakonde / The Citizen