Fri, Aug 19, 2022

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President spins himself into a corner: Masking the truth

The religious among us are familiar with the biblical injunction that counsels us to desist from pointing fingers accusingly at others.

In this regard, Luke 6:24 is explicit” “How can you say to your brother, ‘brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye’, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? Hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Had President Cyril Ramaphosa followed this advice, he would have resisted the temptation to present himself as holier than thou. Caught red-handed, following the recent revelations regarding the unreported theft of the stash of money on his farm, Ramaphosa incomprehensibly responded to questions that were never asked.

This is a tell-tale sign of someone who has something to hide. Confronted with prima facie evidence that he might have broken the law by not reporting a theft, Ramaphosa was quick to tell a seemingly lobotomised audience that he did not steal money from anybody or the state. The stolen money was his. He knows that.

Ramaphosa is learning the hard way that “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. But this is not the first time. When the so-called Gupta emails made headlines, Ramaphosa was in his element, telling everyone who cared to listen that we should get to the bottom of them.

Transparency was the lifeblood of democracy, he told us. But that was before his character-damaging emails surfaced. Transparency was quickly consigned to the dustbin. He rushed to the courts. The courts granted his wish.

As fate would have it, the CR17 campaign funding hit the headlines. Once again, the courts granted his wish to have the records sealed. Ramaphosa’s purported failure to report the theft of large sums of money in foreign currency at his farm, Phala Phala, is proving too hard a knot to untie. His spin doctors in the media space have found themselves having to mumble unintelligible explanations. Ramaphosa’s known drum majorettes have also scampered for cover.

EFF member Anthony Matumba was forcefully removed from the National Assembly in Cape
Town on Thursday this week after disrupting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Budget Vote speech.
EFF leader Julius Malema has pointed out a deafening silence from NGOs over charges of theft
and kidnapping that have been laid against the president. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Not mincing his words, EFF leader Julius Malema observed: “The likes of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Frank Chikane, Bishop Mpumlwana are silent because their puppet has committed crimes which violate domestic and international laws. Where are these elders who have been so loud in the past? “These hypocrites of the church are quiet. There is also a deafening silence from all the captured NGOs, who have been parading themselves as anticorruption and demanding accountability only from a faction they do not support in the ruling party. “Now, Ramaphosa is charged with kidnapping, money laundering and bribery, but there is complete silence from the likes of Freedom Under Law, Casac and Outa.”

On the surface, Ramaphosa is guilty of violating several laws. For one, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 places “a duty on certain persons holding a position of authority to report certain corrupt transactions”.

Ramaphosa has been quick to suggest that the stolen money comes from legitimate transactions. Second, he argues that reporting the matter would have caused panic among the farming community. This is hogwash.

Reporting such a matter would have enabled the neighbouring farming community to implement the necessary measures to protect themselves against such possibilities.

As others have opined, if Ramaphosa is to be believed, he is probably guilty of violating the Currency and Exchanges Act 9 of 1933, which prohibits the selling of goods using foreign currency unless they have been given permission by the Treasury. But Ramaphosa’s version does not seem to wash.

For one, it has been established that Ramaphosa’s game farm is part of the Game Breeders Group, which doesn’t allow cash payment. Even if this were the case, the amount allowable to foreigners and tourists is limited.

The customs law requires that a person is allowed to take up to R25000 in cash into the country “without having to declare this upon arrival at any customs points when arriving by air, land or sea”.

In addition, the law is crystal clear in that “no person shall, without permission granted by the Treasury or a person authorised by the Treasury, and in accordance with such conditions as the Treasury or such authorised person may impose, take or send out of the Republic any bank notes, gold, securities or foreign currency, or transfer any securities from the Republic elsewhere”.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to establish whether such declarations were made, especially if one considers the amount of money that has been reported to have been stashed on Ramaphosa’s farm. In answering a question that was never asked, Ramaphosa ensnared himself.

He boastfully told his ANC comrades: “I have never stolen money from anyone. My integrity as a leader will never allow me to do so. All this was money from proceeds from selling animals.”

Unbeknown to him, Ramaphosa was idiotically admitting that he was in violation of his Oath of Office. Section 96(2) of the Constitution prohibits the president and members of Cabinet to (a) undertake any other paid work and (b) act in any way that is inconsistent with their office, or expose themselves to any situation involving the risk of a conflict between their official responsibilities and private interests.

Engaging in the business of farming, as the president proudly stated, is in violation of the Constitution. The very act of engaging in the selling of animals introduces a conflict of interest with his official duties.

He may also be found to have lied to Parliament, for having stated in the past that he had divested all his business upon assuming the office of president and deputy president of the country. As if that was not enough, at the time of writing this piece, the president has not responded to the allegations relating to the kidnapping, torture and paying off suspects.

This conduct is itself criminal vigilantism, out of kilter with our Constitution. All these are serious allegations supported by documentation, videos and sworn statements. That is not all.

Revelations that the Ramaphosa-linked mining company, Glencore, has pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and corruption in South America and Africa lends credence to submissions made by Brian Molefe at the Commission of inquiry into State of Capture.

Molefe charged that it was under Ramaphosa, as chairperson of Glencore, that “Eskom management and Glencore were in the process of subverting section 38(1)(c)(i) of the PFMA.

The amount that Glencore wanted Eskom to pay for their original mistake of not doing due diligence was R8bn”. The National Prosecuting Authority has been quick to charge individuals for less serious crime with scant evidence.

The NPA rushed for instance, to charge Duduzane Zuma on the basis of the noise that had been created in the media. Carl Niehaus is facing charges of violating Covid-19 regulations that have routinely been violated by politicians, including the president himself.

Failure to prosecute will destroy what is left of the NPA’s credibility. Ramaphosa and his flag bearer analysts have embarked on damage control exercises. They have put the focus on former spy chief Arthur Fraser, questioning his character and motive.

They are also trying to find loopholes that could assist Ramaphosa to escape the noose. But almost all of them end up conceding that the end is nigh. Ramaphosa’s love of game farming (or is it love of money?) may ironically be his ultimate undoing.

* Seepe is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Support at the University of Zululand

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