Andile Ramaphosa: The sins of the son come to visit?
There’s a good story to be written on how Cyril made his money. For now, Blue Crane and Bosasa isn’t it
I have read just about as much as I want to about the Bosasa relationship with the Ramaphosa family, including an explanation of events in Sunday’s Sunday Times by the president’s first son, Andile Ramaphosa; President Cyril Ramaphosa’s own response to Andile’s revelation to News24 investigative journalist Kyle Cowan last week that Bosasa had in fact paid him a total of R2m for services rendered; and the president’s submission to the public protector.
It is not a pretty picture but the last thing it needs is for the pro-Zuma or pro-Mbeki social media to jump to the hysterical conclusion, without further investigation or cross-examination, that the president has been, or may still be, in the pay of Bosasa.
Because that is what they allege. “From Bosasa to Andile Ramaphosa to #CR17 (Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign to win the ANC leadership in December 2017). Sounds like a clear-cut case of money laundering,” read one tweet last week, triggering this column.
On November 6 Ramaphosa was answering questions in parliament. As is tradition, the questions are put in writing and the author of each written question gets to ask a follow-up, unscripted. DA leader Mmusi Maimane had written a question for the president about VBS Bank, which he answered. Maimane then rose to ask his unscripted question and he hit Ramaphosa with a real sucker punch:
“Mr President,” he said, holding up a piece of paper, “here I hold a proof of payment that says R500,000 had to be transferred to a trust account called EFG2 on October 18 2017. This was allegedly for your son, Andile Ramaphosa. Following on that, I have a sworn affidavit from Peet Venter stating that he was asked by the chief executive of Bosasa to make this transfer for Andile Ramaphosa.” Venter was an auditor at Bosasa.
At that time Angelo Agrizzi was still more than a month away from beginning his explosive testimony to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. But Ramaphosa should have known what Bosasa was and how close it was to the ANC itself and to the state. As is so often the case when taken by surprise, he fluffed his answer. He could simply have said he would get back to Maimane. Instead, he blundered into a reply that could eventually cost him, and the country, his presidency.
“Speaker and the honourable Maimane,” he intoned, “this matter was brought to my attention. It was brought to my attention some time ago. I proceeded to ask my son what this was all about. He runs a financial consultancy business, and he consults for a number of companies, and one of these companies is Bosasa, where he provides services on entrepreneurship, particularly on the procurement process. He advises on both local and international companies.
“Regarding this payment, I can assure you, Mr Maimane, that I asked him at close range whether this was money obtained illegally, unlawfully – and he said this was a service that was provided. To this end, he actually even showed me a contract that he had signed with Bosasa.”
He was later to reveal that someone had told him there was a rumour Andile had been paid R500,000 by Bosasa, which is when he checked with his son. Back last October.
The quotes here are from Hansard, and contained in Ramaphosa’s submission to a hostile public protector who responded positively to a DA request that she investigate. Here’s a rich and interesting source of documents and statements by Ramaphosa as the affair unfolds. It includes his letters to the public protector and the speaker.
Ramaphosa goes on to explain to the public protector that on his return to the presidential Cape Town residence, Tuynhuys, next door to parliament, after question time, his long-standing PA/adviser/gatekeeper Donné Nicol had told him that in fact the EFG2 account had been used by his own campaign for the ANC leadership and that the Bosasa money had in fact been made available for his political future.
He explained to the public protector that he and his advisers had decided ahead of the ANC leadership contest that he should not be told who had donated, so that he didn’t feel in any way overly indebted or obligated to them. It’s a plausible explanation and a rational thing to do but would it have applied, say, to a R100m donation as well? I wonder.
Anyway, he confirmed on November 8 that he had indeed given the wrong answer to the right question and that yes, indeed, Bosasa boss Gavin Watson had donated the R500,000 to #CR17. In the greater scheme of things, the R500,000 was not particularly generous given the scale of Gupta investment in Ramaphosa’s opponent winning. Watson too would have bet much more on Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma winning.
But now Ramaphosa has to move quickly to repair the damage. He writes a letter to the speaker telling her he had “inadvertently” misled the house and that the money was a donation to him that he had no knowledge of, and not a payment to his son.
That’s all good, except he has already told the House that his son does indeed have a contract with Bosasa. What for? The public reasonably wants to know. And this is where it gets tricky.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Fortunately Cowan was on the case (and had, by then, been on it for months already). Last Friday night Cowan was named joint winner of the Taco Kuiper prize for investigative journalism. It’s hard to hide from people like him.
It turns out Andile, who is in his mid-30s, is a middle man, a financial intermediary, judging by his business with Bosasa. He’s a fixer. He’ll make an introduction and take a fee. Being Cyril Ramaphosa’s son obviously makes it easier. He has a company called Blue Crane.
He is also clearly a bit slow. His dad has told his children not to do business with the state. How hard is it to work out from that that they shouldn’t do business with the party he leads either. And Bosasa was the party. Or at least synonymous with it.
So Andile goes and does business in East Africa – Uganda and Kenya. Here we also have to ask if Cyril has helped. Our president is very close to the leader of Uganda and writes warmly about him and Uganda in his whimsical book on the Ankole cows (they have long horns) he first saw on a farm owned by President Yoweri Museveni.
Did Cyril help introduce his son to Ugandan investors, to its leaders? It’s a reasonable question because in a roundabout way Bosasa was to benefit from those introductions, if they occurred.
Because what Andile did was very simple. Blue Crane had a relationship with a Chinese company called Dahua Technology. Dahua is the world’s second-largest security camera manufacturer and has offices at Woodmead in Johannesburg.
So the deal is that Andile finds business, because he is well-connected, for Dahua in Uganda and Kenya. He says in an article in the Sunday Times of March 31 that he had identified a “pipeline” of 21 projects in the public and private sectors. Then comes time to actually do the physical work of putting up surveillance “solutions” (I love “pipelines” and “solutions” – you can always spot business bullshitters when you hear stuff like that), that is to say digging holes and running cable. Dahua says it has already worked with this company, African Global Operations (formerly Bosasa), so why doesn’t Andile use them too? Brilliant, he says, and runs no checks and ignores the many news stories that had been written even way back then about Bosasa’s thieving.
An adviser to Dahua, a former Bosasa employee, sends this SMS to Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi on March 14 last year: “Hi Angelo. Dahua wants to set up an [sic] private appointment with you to meet Andile Ramaphosa to structure a relationship/joint venture for the companies to tender on projects and they will use their influence to secure projects. They are looking for a strong trustworthy partner that can deliver results. Please advise on the way forward.”
“No problem, let’s do it,” replies the lovely Angelo. He knew exactly with whom he was dealing.
Needless to say the “pipeline” of projects was never completed. But Blue Crane was paid monthly retainer fees for its introductions that eventually amounted to R2m. It seems a pitiful sum for all the hope young Andile must have had in his projects. Initially about R150,000 a month would drop into his account. It rose to R230,000 when one of the projects actually showed some progress.
But does all this amount to Bosasa “capturing” Cyril? I don’t think so. First, even Cowan, in an earlier report, records that Watson went to considerable lengths to cover up the source of the R500,000 donation to #CR17. Whether that was to prevent Ramaphosa or Jacob Zuma (to whom Watson had stuck for a decade) finding out is a question for later.
And the R2m from Bosasa to Andile is in fact intended to reach Cyril? R150,000 at a time? Really? I just can’t take that seriously.
I’ve written this to test my scepticism about the howling on Twitter the other day. There’s probably a really good story to be written on how Cyril made his money, right from the start. But Blue Crane and Bosasa isn’t it. Not yet anyway.
Not that it does not remain a threat. The public protector is a Zuma plant and is still to rule on the DA complaint. She could simply accuse Ramaphosa of lying to her and deliberately misleading parliament. Ramaphosa would take her on review but the DA would then call a motion of no confidence in the president and we would have an early test of his control over the ANC caucus in the national assembly.
Whatever, the story will be around for a long time. Here’s Cowan’s excellent investigation into the way Bosasa got its tentacles around Andile Ramaphosa and here is his take on the R500,000 donation to #CR17 that Ramaphosa was supposed to have spotted.
Obviously I know I’ve attracted a good deal of criticism for failing to be sufficiently cynical about Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency. But I know a lot of it comes from his opponents and those I realise are acolytes of both Zuma and Mbeki. Once you figure out why people are being cruel, it kind of washes away.