President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that a payment made on behalf of Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson into a trust account was used to fund his campaign to become president of the ANC.

However, the president insisted in a letter to the speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete on Friday that the donation was made without his  knowledge.

Bosasa, which is now known as African Global Operations, has been implicated in a number allegedly corrupt prison contracts.

‘‘I was not aware of the existence of the donation at the time that I answered the question in the National Assembly,’’ Ramaphosa said in his letter. ‘‘I thought it best to furnish this information to clear any confusion. I kindly request that you bring my letter to the attention of the members of the National Assembly.’’

Ramaphosa was asked about the payment made by Watson to his son Andile Ramaphosa by DA leader Mmusi Maimane during questions in the National Assembly on November 6. Maimane said he had evidence that Ramaphosa’s son had received a R500,000 payment from Bosasa, via a trust account.

In his reply in the National Assembl,y Ramaphosa said he had asked his son about the payment.

‘‘He runs a financial consultancy business and consults for a number of companies, and one of them is Bosasa … I asked him at close range whether this money was … obtained illegally and he says it was for a service provided, and to this end he showed me a contract, which was signed with Bosasa,” Ramaphosa said.

“He is running a clear and honest business. If it turns out there was any illegality, I can assure you that I will be the first to make sure he is held accountable, even if it means taking him to the police station myself. I have told [my children] that you do not do any business with government or state-owned entities. If there is any illegality or corruption, I will take them, if need be, to jail myself.”

Maimane said the payment is part of a familiar pattern of corruption within the ANC and that Ramaphosa is the beneficiary of a private company that has benefited substantially from state contracts

In his letter to Mbete, Ramaphosa said that he had “inadvertently’’ provided incorrect information. He said the answer given was based on information at his disposal at the time. His letter clarified the business relationship between his son Andile and Bosasa.

‘‘It is true that my son’s company does indeed have a contract with African Global Operations for the provision of consultancy services,’’ Ramaphosa said in his letter to Mbete. ‘‘The said consultancy services are provided by my son’s company to African Global Operations in a number of African countries other than SA. He informed me that SA was specifically excluded to avoid a potential conflict of interest.’’

‘Absolute hogwash’

Since his reply to questions by Maimane, Ramaphosa has said he has subsequently been informed that the payment to his son referred to by Maimane does not relate to this contract.

Maimane said in an interview Friday that it is ‘‘absolute hogwash’’ that Ramaphosa did not know about the donation when he responded to questions in the National Assembly and that the president should be investigated by parliament’s ethics committee.

Maimane believes that Ramaphosa has misled parliament with his reply. Furthermore, at the time of receiving the donation, Ramaphosa was deputy president and should have declared the money in the register of members’ interests.

Maimane said the payment is part of a familiar pattern of corruption within the ANC and that Ramaphosa is the beneficiary of a private company that has benefited substantially from state contracts. ‘‘He is not the first ANC president who has been given money from Bosasa,’’ Maimane said.

In September, it emerged that senior ANC MP Vincent Smith had been paid ‘‘at least” R670,000 by Bosasa over the past three years and had accepted security installations at his home valued at R200,000.

Smith confirmed at the time that he had entered into an agreement for ‘‘a personal loan with Mr A Agrizzi [former Bosasa boss]”. The loan was for his daughter’s university fees and was processed in two separate payments: R220,000 in 2015 and R395,000 in 2016.

He denied that Bosasa had installed CCTV cameras at his home, adding that he was in “support of being held accountable” and would “participate in the parliamentary process led by the ethics committee”.

Smith has since stepped down from chairing any parliamentary committee until the ethics committee concludes looking into allegations against him.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za