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Mon Oct 20 15:05:52 SAST 2014

Cyril under the spotlight

Justice Malala | 10 December, 2012 00:01

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma is a freeloader. He milks friends, comrades and taxpayers to fund his lifestyle. When we voted him and the ANC into power in 2009 we knew this. When we vote for him again in 2014 we will know even more. We cannot claim we did not know.

What about his running-mates, though? Let's look at his two potential deputies in the party. Are they ethical?

The first is Cyril Ramaphosa, the billionaire former unionist. I have only met two people who do not like Ramaphosa: the late ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba, who in the run-up to the ANC's 1997 conference got so heated in his condemnation of Ramaphosa that I could not print his comments, and Julius Malema.

Mokaba was easy to read. At the time he was a cheerleader for Deputy President Thabo Mbeki in his bid to succeed Nelson Mandela at the helm of the ANC. Mbeki ascended to power, dumped Mokaba from his cabinet in 1999 and then Mokaba died from a long illness after joining the Aids denialist movement.

Malema, the expelled league leader, has alleged that the Marikana massacre happened to protect Ramaphosa's stake in Lonmin.

Malema is also pretty transparent. Ramaphosa, as the chairman of the ANC's appeals committee, upheld the decision to expel Malema from the party.

Otherwise, Ramaphosa is much admired, meaning his inclusion in the Zuma line-up of leaders has made the man from Nkandla somewhat palatable. But is Ramaphosa beyond reproach these days? A major corporate scandal that smells to high heaven is now engulfing the man and he needs either to explain himself properly or walk away from the deal.

Writing in Finweek magazine, financial journalist Bruce Whitfield shows that Ramaphosa might have, at the very least, shown a lack of judgment or blatantly flouted corporate governance rules. Ramaphosa is executive chairman of Shanduka, the investment group he founded, and the independent non-executive chairman of MTN.

"Shanduka, which owns 0.45% of MTN Group, announced late last month that it had made a $335-million investment in MTN Nigeria," Whitfield wrote.

"As chairman of both Shanduka and MTN, did Ramaphosa pass himself a huge wad of the Nigerian MTN operation? Is there some sort of insider trading here?"

Whitfield reveals that "Phuti Mahanyele, the CEO of Shanduka . is in a romantic relationship with Sifiso Dabengwa, president and CEO of MTN. MTN is the 78.8% controlling shareholder of the West African business . Dabengwa was CEO of the Nigerian business from 2004 to 2006 and would thus have an intimate working knowledge of the operations and investment potential."

So you have a double twist. First, Ramaphosa is conflicted by the fact that he chairs both companies' boards. He has to answer the question whether any of this involves him using his influence and inside knowledge to benefit himself. Second, the CEOs of both companies, which he chairs, are romantically linked. Did they collude?

It stinks, but Paul Norman, MTN group chief human resources and corporate affairs officer, told Whitfield: "Ramaphosa was not party to the discussions relating to the waiver of MTN International's pre-emptive rights and recused himself from the vote on the relevant MTN Group board resolution. The group rejects . [suggestions] that there might have been a conflict of interest."

Well, if Ramaphosa is going to run for deputy presidency of the ANC - and possibly of the country - he will need to explain himself about this and perhaps other deals. On the face of it, the whole thing shows incredible lack of judgment at the very least. He should have seen these potential conflicts coming and walked away from the deal.

There has not been enough scrutiny of all the candidates for high office in the ANC. For example, we must not forget that Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's romantic partner, Gugu Mtshali, was a founding director of Imperial Crown Trading, a company accused of nefarious activities involving the Sishen iron ore mine. Zuma's son, Duduzane, is involved with Mtshali in the business through his association with the Gupta family, well-known benefactors of Zuma.

The spotlight has moved from these relationships and that particularly nauseating "money for jam" Arcelor Mittal black economic empowerment deal, which brings the Zuma, Motlanthe and Gupta families together. The spotlight should stay firmly on these deals because some of these individuals want the top job in our democracy.

Ramaphosa, Motlanthe and others should be questioned on their conduct - just as we press Zuma for answers on numerous scandals.

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