Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: SUPPLIED

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign team has gone into crisis mode, undertaking to audit all monies — from more than 200 individuals — that came into its coffers ahead of his election as ANC president, to ensure that “fundraising processes” and the “sources of funding” were “above board”.

This is after Ramaphosa had to backtrack on a response to a parliamentary question by DA leader Mmusi Maimane about a payment of R500,000 from controversial security firm Bosasa.

Ramaphosa said when he answered Maimane’s question he was unaware  that the payment had been made as a donation to his campaign and not to his son Andile’s consultancy firm, as he had initially stated.

Now Ramaphosa’s campaign management team has said he was not kept in the loop on the funding and fundraising had been intentionally ring-fenced from other campaign functions.

Maimane told Business Day on Sunday that the matter showed the ANC was rotten to the core.

The DA leader now wants Ramaphosa to set up an independent inquiry, headed by a retired judge, to look into all of Bosasa’s dealings with the government. He said the inquiry should also be tasked with determining whether Ramaphosa had lied to parliament. Andile Ramaphosa has a contract with African Global Operations — previously Bosasa — for the provision of consultancy services in a number of African countries, but excluding SA to avoid a conflict of interest.

In a statement on Friday, the presidency said Ramaphosa had informed the speaker of parliament that he was made aware after his question-and-answer session that the money was in fact a donation towards his campaign. He said he had not been aware of this at the time and the donation was made without his knowledge.

The statement from Ramaphosa, in which he backtracked on his parliamentary response, excited those in the ANC who continue to support former president Jacob Zuma, with insiders in those camps saying it was only a matter of time until Ramaphosa could be successfully challenged as party boss, given his tenuous victory over Zuma’s preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the Nasrec conference in December 2017.

Zuma backers are likely to continue to lie low until after the election in 2019, but the run-up to the ANC’s next national general council — when a decision on an early elective conference can be taken — is expected to be fractious.

In an address to elderly citizens on the campaign trail in KwaMashu outside Durban, Zuma said on Friday that party members should vote for the ANC first and only after that consider removing people with whom they are unhappy.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said given the fact that Ramaphosa misled parliament about Bosasa, it would only be “fair” if he came back to the National Assembly and took MPs into his confidence on the matter and explained under which circumstances he misled them.

EFF leader Julius Malema reportedly also called on Friday for the president to come back to parliament and explain himself.

Meanwhile, a senior ANC leader aligned to Ramaphosa said the Bosasa matter was being used in a factional way by the president’s detractors within the party, and that this must be seen against the backdrop of the noose tightening on corruption.

The leader said the issue was a non-story and he believed it would blow over quickly, as the party was now focusing on elections. He did say, however, there was push-back within the party from the “other group” and that this relates to the Zondo commission, among other matters.

Another Ramaphosa ally said while the Zuma group would seek to capitalise on this, there was no reason for him to worry.

“The president made it clear to the campaign team that money would not be used to buy votes, but rather for the running of the campaign. There was never an agenda to do favours for people who gave money,” the source said.

A statement from Ramaphosa’s campaign management team on Sunday sought to draw a distinction between the president and his campaigners. The statement said the “CR17” campaign — comprising of a number of structures including a finance task team — was established and managed by “like-minded individuals” to support Ramaphosa.

“To avoid conflicts of interests and to completely eliminate any expectation of reciprocal intent, action or preferential treatment by donors, real or perceived, the fundraising team was ring-fenced from other operations,” the statement said. “Consequently, it was also determined that President Ramaphosa should not be involved in the fundraising effort and that he shouldn’t have a record of donors, although he was asked on occasion to attend dinners with potential donors.”

The campaign management team said the donations were for venue hire, transport and accommodation, and that Ramaphosa, his family and foundation had not received any of it.

With Theto Mahlakoana and Genevieve Quintal