Malema’s secret fund

2011-07-24 10:00
Adriaan Basson and Piet Rampedi
A secret family trust of which ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema is the sole trustee may explain how he has been ­bankrolling his lavish lifestyle.

The Ratanang Family Trust, named after Malema’s five-year-old son, was registered at the Office of the Master of the High Court in Pretoria on May 13 2008, five weeks after he was elected president of the youth league.

City Press can further reveal that the trust owns a 3.5 hectare smallholding outside Polokwane, bought for R900 000 in cash in June last year. No bond was registered on the smallholding, which is part of the farm Palmietfontein.

Two independent, well-placed sources with knowledge of Malema’s financial dealings told City Press that the trust was a ­vehicle used by the youth leader and his benefactors to fund his lifestyle. “Thousands of rands” are deposited into the ­account on a regular basis, they say.

Said one source: “Frequent deposits are being made from different banks, especially in Limpopo.”

The other source, a seasoned businessman who moves in Malema’s circle of friends and associates, told City Press he deposited R200 000 into the trust’s bank account after Malema facilitated a government tender for his benefit.

According to him, there are at least 20 other business people who do the same.

He said Malema sent him the number of the bank account via SMS. After depositing the money, Malema allegedly thanked him – also via an SMS.

Malema denied that the trust was being used to launder illicit funds, but declined to divulge its purpose or bank balance.

Malema yesterday failed in his attempt to gag City Press from publishing details about his alleged use of the trust as a slush fund for corrupt payments. Malema’s legal team denied that their client was involved in criminal activity.

Viwe Notshe SC, Malema’s advocate, told the South Gauteng High Court that his ­client did not deny receiving money into the trust, but denied that these payments were bribes.
“He says (the payments) are contributions for this cause and that cause.”

Apart from denying that the trust was used for receiving bribes, Malema refused to answer any of City Press’ questions.
Judge Colin Lamont slammed Malema for this, saying it was in his power to set the record straight if the trust was clean.

“The applicant (Malema) dealt very ­superficially with fairly detailed allegations made (by City Press), allegations he could understand. He could have dealt with them in more detail,” Lamont said.

The following questions remain ­unanswered:
» Why did he register the trust?
» What is he using the trust for?
» Who are the beneficiaries of the trust?
» How extensively is the trust used in his business and private dealings?
» Why has he never publicly disclosed the existence of the trust when questioned about his wealth?
» When he says he is poor and the police won’t find millions in “my account”, does he also refer to the Ratanang Family Trust’s account?
» Has the trust declared income or assets to the SA Revenue Service?
» Does he use the trust to fund his ­lifestyle?
» Is it true that contractors, individuals and politicians deposit money into the trust, as alleged by City Press’ sources, in exchange for securing tenders, political protection or their political agendas?

Malema this week lambasted the media for enquiring into his mysteriously acquired wealth, saying his money was nobody’s business.

This came after reports that he is rebuilding and upgrading his R3.6?million Sandown house, and ­installing an underground bunker in the event of his security being threatened.

Malema has persistently claimed he is poor and doesn’t have millions in the bank when questioned about his wealth.

Queries escalated after City Press ­revealed his link to government tenders in Limpopo last year.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian in March last year, Malema said he lived on “hand-outs” most of the time.

He dared the police to “go to my account and find ­millions. They must take those millions and put them into institutions that can help ­children of the poor.”

Until now, the only public acknowledgment of the trust was at an October 2009 function in Malema’s hometown, Seshego, at which the newly built Seshego Baptist Church was unveiled.

It was reported after the event that ­Malema himself funded the building of the church in honour of his late mother, ­Mahlodi, who was a member.

President Jacob Zuma and Limpopo ­Premier Cassel Mathale attended the ­function, at which Zuma made his controversial remark that Malema would be a ­future ANC president.

A small bronze plate fixed to the church reveals it was built by the Ratanang Family Trust.

Although his salary from the ANC has never been publicly confirmed, it is ­rumoured to be about R50 000 a month.

According to records from the deed’s ­office, Malema’s trust bought a portion of the Palmietfontein farm near the Silicon Smelters last June. It was registered three months later.

At least three of Malema’s neighbours at Palmietfontein said they knew he owned the plot. They said they had seen him at least three times at the farmhouse, which had been vacant for 10 months.

Said one man: “Personally, I have seen him two or three times. He just comes, walks around the property to see whether it is still fine and then leaves. Nobody stays here.”
Another plot owner, who said he was looking forward to living side by side with the youth leader, said: “The place has been vacant for 10 months. The previous owner left. The house has always been like this. No renovations have been done.”

A land claim was registered against the Palmietfontein farm by the Ga-Mothapo community in 1995. In September 2009, the claim was extended to include, among others, the portion Malema now owns.

Meanwhile, Malema yesterday told thousands of villagers in Tshikondeni, Venda, that: “They can write their nonsense, we don’t care about them. They can say whatever they say about us, we don’t care.”