News

Ramaphosa lobbyists cry foul as records show transactions made to dubious accounts

2019-08-19 00:00

The vast differences in payments effected for grassroots lobbying in support of the CR17 campaign is causing a major political rift among those who propelled President Cyril Ramaphosa to the ANC presidency.

Revelations of discrepancies in payments for campaigners have caused unhappiness among those who feel they were short-changed while those who “sat in air-conditioned offices” in the big cities scored big.

Details of the flow of funds from the CR17 campaign have been circulated on social media and have angered those who believe they worked hard to win the battle of Nasrec.

Last week, Ramaphosa convinced the Pretoria High Court to seal the Public Protector’s record of her investigations – but that did not stop the widespread circulation of the information.

The information that is publicly available shows how millions of rands were dished out from one of the campaign’s three bank accounts – namely, Linkd Environmental Services, held with FNB – to those who were doing the grassroots lobbying.

City Press understands that the disparity in payments was cause for concern, with some CR17 lobbyists lamenting the fact that people who did less of the groundwork were paid obscene amounts of money.

A former Ramaphosa campaigner, who had been unaware of the amounts that were floating about during the campaign, said the way in which money was distributed was unjust.

The revelations have shocked even some of the ground troops.

“We were on the ground going from province to province, checking the mood and securing delegates, only to find that those who were sitting in air-conditioned offices in Joburg were paying themselves big money,” said a campaigner.

The disgruntlement has now even stalled efforts to reconvene with Ramaphosa’s 2017 backers to come to his defence, in the face of his perceived onslaught by a faction that wants to undermine his presidency and even unseat him at the party’s National General Council next year.

Read: Ramaphosa's confidential campaign documents to remain private, for now

“There are also some valid questions being raised over why some people’s companies were paid in addition to their personal bank accounts,” said the campaigner.

“There was talk that we should reconvene to assist the president to come up with a strategy to respond, because we cannot leave this up to the presidency. But, given all these revelations now, there will be little appetite from some of us to do so.”

Hundreds of millions of rands were raised, mostly by big business to propel Ramaphosa to the ANC presidency, which was hotly contested by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – former president Jacob Zuma’s favoured candidate at the time.

How the cash flowed

City Press can reveal that about R13 million was withdrawn from the Linkd Environmental Services account in the name of the company run by Lungile Ngubane, the “fiancée” of Vukani Mdabe, the CR17 campaign coordinator in KwaZulu-Natal.

Ngubane’s company, Nomangisi Cleaning Services, received the funds in 59 transactions that took place between August 11 2017 and January 3 2019 – more than a year after delegates at the ANC national conference in Nasrec in December 2017 elected Ramaphosa as president.

Ngubane referred all questions about her company to Mdabe, who told City Press that he used his fiancée’s company to distribute the funds needed across the province for campaign activities.

When asked why using the company was necessary, he said: “We needed a vehicle to move the money because things were moving quickly and there was no time to set up an alternative.”

Records show that Mdabe also personally received funds which others in CR17 said were given to people who were claiming for expenses, while the funds channelled through business accounts were used for campaign activities.

But none of these payments have topped what ANC MP Bernice Swarts received.

About R16 million was transferred from the Linkd Environmental Services bank account in the name of her company, Tomberry Trading Enterprises, as well as in her personal capacity.

Tomberry Trading Enterprises received the money between August 11 2017 and January 3 2019, while Swarts was personally paid in 22 transactions between July 2017 and December 2018.

On at least three occasions, the same amount credited into the Linkd Environmental Services bank account was immediately paid out to Tomberry Trading Enterprises.

These amounts included R240 000 on August 11 2018; R525 000 on October 4 2018; and R100 000 on October 9 2018.

City Press understands that Swarts had been delegated to win support for Ramaphosa among ANC branches and delegates in Mpumalanga and was frequently seen in Mbombela in the period leading up to the Nasrec conference.

However, said one of the high-ranking campaign members, she had “failed to deliver” because eventually it was Deputy President David Mabuza who saved Ramaphosa by convincing his backers to throw their weight behind him.

But a source from inside the campaign said the reason Swarts received so much money was that in Mpumalanga the CR17 support groups were divided into three, because they did not trust one another.

Swarts was therefore coordinating their work, and money had to be spent funding each group.

Sasco angry at its president

Another beneficiary was SA Students’ Congress (Sasco) president Avela Mjajubana, who appears to have received almost R800 000 in his personal capacity, shocking his organisation.

Moipone Mhlongo, Sasco’s secretary general, believes that Mjajubana used the student movement’s name to benefit from the CR17 donations but has denied that his alleged suspension was linked to the money he received.

She also denies that Sasco received any money from CR17 donations.

“As Sasco, we also distance ourselves from the monies he received. He got those in his personal capacity and abused the name of the organisation and his position to receive them. As Sasco, we have not seen any of the amounts, and we reprimand him for bringing the name of the organisation into disrepute,” she said.

City Press has learnt that Sasco was used as a youth wing of the campaign and had a role to coordinate the support of young people countrywide.

A person with inside knowledge of the campaign said a large payment made to Mjajubana was to organise a conference in the Free State.

What Kodwa and Mbalula got

According to records, deputy minister of state security Zizi Kodwa and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula received R40 000 each on January 3 2019.

A person by the name of Jama Mchunu received the same amount on the same date.

In response, Kodwa said: “I did not get money from the so-called CR17.”

Mbalula declined to comment.

However, Luthuli House insiders said the funds were to supplement Mbalula’s salary as he was working at ANC headquarters and had been fired as police minister.

At the time of the transaction, Kodwa was also working as head of the presidency at Luthuli House, together with then ANC head of organising Senzo Mchunu and his colleague Dakota Legoete.

Why court rejected Mkhwebane

It is not clear if the bank statements circulating in social media are among the documents that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane relied on in her investigation into the R500 000 that the CR17 received from Gavin Watson, the former head of controversial company Bosasa.

On Thursday, Mkhwebane submitted records of her probe to the court as part of Ramaphosa’s review application, but Ramaphosa successfully persuaded Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba to keep some parts concealed.

Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane.Picture: Felix Dlangamandla

In the main, Ramaphosa had questioned whether the documents had been obtained lawfully.

Oupa Segalwe, the acting spokesperson for the Public Protector, said that Ledwaba’s reasoning for sealing the documents was that “the donors would be prejudiced”.

Segalwe said Ledwaba rejected Mkhwebane’s argument that public interest demanded that all parts of the record should not be kept secret.

Her lawyers contested that the public had a right to know who gave Ramaphosa the money.

According to Segalwe, her legal team also argued that “there were no legitimate grounds for Ramaphosa’s request to seal the records”.

He said the request “was premised in insinuations that the information was obtained unlawfully, but no piece of evidence was produced to back this claim up”.

Thirdly, he said, Mkhwebane’s lawyers questioned why Ramaphosa appeared to be representing third parties (the donors), “none of whom indicated their opposition to having the record made public through rule 53 of the Uniform Rules of Court”.

He said Mkhwebane acquired the CR17 campaign’s bank statements through the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), which has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Office of the Public Protector governing cooperation between the two institutions in respect of their mandates.

“Sharing of information to further the mandates of each of the institutions is covered under this MOU,” he said, adding that the process involved a written request and a response from the FIC to obtain the information in question.

TALK TO US

What do you make of all these personal payments and the involvement of so many companies?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CR17 and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50. By participating, you agree to receive occasional marketing material

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

September 15 2019