President Cyril Ramaphosa has told parliament’s public accounts watchdog (Scopa) that he does not have any direct or specific information on the alleged misuse of public funds for the ANC’s internal party political purposes.
Two weeks ago, Scopa asked Ramaphosa to explain comments he made in a leaked recording of an ANC NEC meeting, which are also the subject of a probe by public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
In the audio, leaked to the Daily News last year, Ramaphosa can be heard saying: “One of the officials said, as these people from the State Security [Agency] testify [at the state capture commission], one of the officials said soon they will be revealing about how money was used for some campaigns, and I said I would rather they say you got money from this business for CR17 than for the public to finally hear that their public money was used to advance certain campaigns.”
In his response, Ramaphosa claimed he had relied on information already in the public domain and based his comments on evidence and testimony led before the state capture commission.
“I do not have any information in my possession that could assist the committee (Scopa) in this respect,” he said.
TimesLIVE has seen Ramaphosa’s letter dated February 9 and addressed to Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa, in which he confirms having made the statements at a meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) held between March 26 and 28 last year.
“In this statement, made during the day on March 27 2021, I made reference to misuse of public funds in internal elections for leadership positions in the ANC,” he said.
He told Hlengwa it was important to take into account the full context of what was said at the NEC meeting.
“In my capacity as president of the ANC, I am focused on the party’s renewal. One of the critical areas to which we are giving attention is to promote transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour with respect to the funding of internal party activities.
“This requires a recognition of practices that are unacceptable and taking the necessary steps to correct these,” he said.
In his letter to Hlengwa, Ramaphosa said: “I do not have any direct and specific information on the alleged misuse of public funds for party political purposes.
“The statements I made in the NEC meeting were based on allegations already in the public domain and rumours circulating within the organisation and broader society.”
Ramaphosa said some of the information regarding this matter had already been in the public domain before the meeting at which the statement was made.
Such information would include contents of the High-Level Review Panel Report on the State Security Agency (SSA) about the matter of alleged misuse of public funds. The report has been in the public domain since it was published in March 2019.
“The committee (Scopa) will have noted the challenges the auditor-general has had in auditing the funds of the SSA.”
Ramaphosa also cited the testimony of ambassador Riaz “Moe” Shaik and Lizo Gibson Njenje before the state capture commission in November 2019. “They testified about what they referred to as ‘misuse’ of SSA resources for unlawful purposes.”
The court case pitting the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) against senior leadership of the police, regarding the alleged purchase of surveillance equipment at inflated prices, was the example he cited.
“This matter unfolded in court during 2020. The allegations included information that monies in excess of the actual price of the equipment was intended to be used to influence the outcome of the ANC national conference of December 2017.”
Ramaphosa listed several other testimonies before the Zondo commission including those of ambassador Mzuvukile Maqetuka and an unidentified witness who referred to misuse of public funds for political party matters.
On whether there were any instructions to or from any ministers, accounting officers or any other officials or people to release public funds or to facilitate the release of public funds for party political purposes, Ramaphosa responded: “I do not have such information.”
He was also not aware of any ministers or accounting officers being made aware of, or having knowledge of, any unauthorised spending in the event that such instructions to channel funds were made.
Nor did he know MPs, officials of any organ of state, staff members of the ANC or any other person who may have further relevant information to assist Scopa in determining whether public funds were misused for party political purposes.
He referred Scopa to publicly available records related to the information.
With regards to his comment about “busing people around” he said he was speaking in general terms about activities common to campaigns, and that require resources.
“Since my election as president of the republic I have taken a number of steps to uncover and end the misuse of public funds.
“Some of the steps taken may not necessarily fall within the purview of your committee’s mandate but they are important in the fight against corruption,” he said.
He listed a number of commissions, strategies, structures that he established or strengthened to fight corruption.
“The detail and extent of the misuse of public funds as referred to in the matter the committee has asked me to address will no doubt become clear once the commission of inquiry’s final report is submitted, and once consequential investigations, as well as those already under way, are finalised.”
Hlengwa announced on Friday that Scopa will meet on Wednesday to discuss Ramaphosa’s response along with the legal advice the committee sought from parliament.