IOL 13 June 2019

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu has accused President Cyril Ramaphosa of resorting to “intimidatory tactics” against witnesses in the R500 000 Bosasa donation saga.

Speaking to The Star on Wednesday, Shivambu – one of the complainants in the matter – said Ramaphosa must man up and face all accusations levelled against him, rather than threaten witnesses.

“The president must dispute the facts presented to him and should avoid an intimidatory tactic of threatening complainants,” said Shivambu.

“If the public protector says it is allowed to cross-examine complainants, I will comply and raise concerns in the cross-examination that such sets a wrong precedent.”

This comes after Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane wrote a letter to DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Tuesday, informing him that Ramaphosa had made a “request to cross-examine some of the people” she had interviewed as part of her investigation against the president, “including yourself”.

Mkhwebane’s letter essentially confirmed that Ramaphosa had been implicated in the Bosasa scandal, adding that she had given the president “until June 21, 2019 to submit his response to the section 7 (9) notice, subsequent to which I can finalise my investigation and issue the report”.

Mkhwebane was probing Ramaphosa after Maimane and Shivambu lodged separate complaints – one in November and the other in January – alleging that the president had misled Parliament and violated his executive code of ethics in November.

This was when Ramaphosa responded to Maimane’s question in Parliament about the R500000 donation his ANC presidential campaign had received from controversial Bosasa boss Gavin Watson in 2017.

On Wednesday, Maimane said he would seek legal advice on whether Ramaphosa was legally allowed to cross-examine him as one of the complainants.

However, he insisted through his spokesperson Azola Mboniswa that Ramaphosa was “embroiled in a corruption scandal” involving controversial company African Global Operations (AGO), formerly known as Bosasa.

Mboniswa said Maimane had noted Mkhwebane’s update, but would only decide whether to submit himself to Ramaphosa’s cross-examination demand upon receiving legal advice.

“It is clear that President Ramaphosa is embroiled in a corruption scandal; Bosasa bought themselves a president the same way the Guptas bought themselves a president. We would, however, be jumping the gun if we spoke about whether Mr Maimane will submit himself for cross-examination or not.

“We have received no formal communication requesting this. Mr Maimane will seek legal advice as and when the formal request comes,” Mboniswa said.

He added that while Maimane was concerned about the delay in the release of the report, he eagerly awaited the final report, which must be tabled with the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise.

“It is high time that presidents and their families who mislead Parliament are treated as equals before (the law) and are held to account to the fullest might of the law.”

The Sunday Independent reported at the weekend that Mkhwebane’s preliminary report had found Ramaphosa guilty of “inadvertently and deliberately misleading” Parliament about the donation, adding that the president may have been involved in money laundering, as the money was channelled through intermediaries.

The draft findings showed that the donation was transferred from Watson’s personal account into the account of Miotto Trading, a company owned by Margaret Longworth, the sister of Bosasa’s former auditor Peet Venter, and then into the CR17 Attorneys Trust Account managed by Edelstein, Farber and Grobler (EFG) Attorneys.

Part of the R200million raised was later transferred into the Ramaphosa Trust bank account.

Early on Wednesday, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko confirmed that the president had received Mkhwebane’s section 7(9) notice.

In terms of the Public Protector Act, the notice was issued to give parties an opportunity to respond, if the public protector felt they were being “implicated in the matter being investigated and that such implication may be to the detriment of that person or that an adverse finding pertaining to that person may result”.

“The president has responded to the public protector, requesting an extension of the period given to him to respond to the matters raised in the public protector’s provisional report.

“The public protector has granted such extension until June 21, 2019. The president has further requested to exercise his entitlement to question the complainant Mr Maimane and several witnesses who had appeared before the public protector during the course of her investigation in terms of section 7 (9) (b) (ii) of the act,” Diko said in a statement.

In response to questions sent earlier, Diko stressed Ramaphosa hadn’t asked to cross-examine Shivambu; “rather Mr Watson, Mr Maimane and representatives of the banks that the public protector is said to have subpoenaed in the course of her investigation.”

She added: “Without speaking to the merits of the notice, there are issues we believe require further clarification in order to respond in a considered manner to the notice.

“According to the Public Protector Act, the president is entitled to question any such person, or his or her legal representative shall be entitled, through the public protector, to question other witnesses determined by the public protector, who have appeared before her in terms of this section.”

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe declined to comment.

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