Ramaphosa ‘deliberately misled parliament’ on Watson donation, Mkhwebane finds

Ramaphosa ‘deliberately misled parliament’ on Watson donation, Mkhwebane finds

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: EPA-EFE / KIM LUDBROOK

Mkhwebane also found that Ramaphosa personally benefited from the financial proceeds of the Bosasa donation to his CR17 campaign.

At a press briefing to announce the release of her latest reports, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane announced that she had found President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberately mislead parliament when he was confronted on a donation made to his son Andile of R500,000 from Gavin Watson, the CEO of hugely controversial facilities company African Global Operations, formerly known as Bosasa.

This, according to Mkhwebane, constitutes actions which are inconsistent with his office – which at the time was deputy president.

Releasing the report on her investigation into the donation, Mkhwebane on Friday said: “The allegations that on 6 November 2019, during a question and answer session in parliament, President Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National Assembly, is substantiated.

“He deliberately misled parliament, in that he should have allowed himself sufficient time to research on a well-informed response,” she said at a press conference in Pretoria.

By misleading parliament, Ramaphosa had also violated the constitution, said Mkhwebane.

She gave Ramaphosa one month to disclose all the donations to his campaign to become ANC president.

READ MORE: Media is confusing my Bosasa donation with Andile’s R2m – Ramaphosa

“I, therefore, find President Ramaphosa’s conduct as referred to above, although ostensibly in good faith, to be inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet and therefore in violation of section 96(1) of the Constitution,” her report found.

According to Mkhwebane, the report followed an investigation based on three complaints – one from Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane, another from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu, and a third from a whistle-blower she described as “an ordinary member of the public”.

Maimane’s complaint, the public protector said, related to the donation from Watson itself, while Shivambu accused Ramaphosa of having misled parliament.

Regarding how she conducted the investigation, Mkhwebane said: “The approach to the investigation is quite standard. We look at what happened, we use a blow-by-blow account of who did what and when. We then look at what should have happened, which covers the standards that ought to have been upheld by the person alleged to have engaged in wrongdoing. These standards would include policies, laws and the constitution, among other prescripts.”

According to Mkhwebane, the donations from Bosasa amounted to “sponsorship”.

“In light of the evidence before me, it can be safely concluded that the campaign pledges towards the CR17 campaign were some form of sponsorship, and that they were direct financial sponsorship or assistance from non-party sources other than a family member or permanent companion and were, therefore, benefits of a material nature,” Mkhwebane said.

She also said that since Ramaphosa personally benefited from the proceeds of the campaign and therefore should have disclosed this benefit.

“I have evidence which indicates that some of the money collected through the CR17 campaign trust account was also into the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation account from where it was also transferred to other beneficiaries,” she said.

“Failure to disclose the said material benefits, including a donation from AGO (Bosasa), constitutes a breach of the code.”

READ MORE: R500k payment to Andile Ramaphosa can be seen as money laundering – Venter

Last year, during a question-and-answer session in parliament, Ramaphosa said his son, Andile, benefited to the tune of R500,000 from a contract with Bosasa.

Almost a year after seeing a contract between Andile and Bosasa, 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.

Ramaphosa later retracted his answer, writing to the National Assembly saying he inadvertently provided incorrect information and that the half a million rand was in fact donated to his campaign to become ANC president.

Earlier this month, Ramaphosa submitted his final response to notices of adverse findings against him issued by Mkhwebane.

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