Standoff over use of Ramaphosa's pledge money stalls donation to Mandela fund

28 July 2019 - 00:00
Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the presidency and the foundation have had
Image: GCIS/Elmond Jiyane Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the presidency and the foundation have had "extensive engagement" and it was agreed that the Thuma Mina Fund should be managed independently, with a broader mandate.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has not yet paid a cent of his R3.9m annual salary to the Nelson Mandela Foundation - despite promising to do so last year.

Ramaphosa's failure to pay over the promised funds follows a standoff between the presidency and the foundation over how the donation of half his salary is to be utilised, delaying the launch of a proposed Thuma Mina Fund.

Now, 14 months after Ramaphosa's much-publicised promise in parliament, no money has changed hands.

The Sunday Times understands that officials from the presidency and representatives of the foundation have failed to agree on the fund, which was meant to bring together the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Insiders said the Mandela foundation does not want to be dictated to on how the money should be spent, while the presidency wants the Thuma Mina Fund to become a public mobilisation platform attracting pledges from other people as well.

The foundation wants Ramaphosa's donation to be treated like any other pledge, said an insider.

The foundation confirmed this week that it had not yet received the funds Ramaphosa promised in May 2018 during the presidency's budget vote speech.

Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said: "The commitment is still there that the president will make the donations. There was still some issue to be sorted out."

Hatang did not detail the issue preventing the president from making the payments. He said he had spoken to Ramaphosa three times since he made the pledge, and he had said the money would come.

Hatang said there was nothing untoward about the delay, adding that often donations take longer than expected.

He did not say why it had taken 14 months. "Some of these donations take time."

The foundation is meant to receive half of Ramaphosa's annual salary of R3.9m.

"The president has said his office is trying to sort out something that these funds come through," said Hatang.

Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said the presidency and the foundation have had "extensive engagement" and it was agreed that the Thuma Mina Fund should be managed independently, with a broader mandate.

"It was agreed that the Nelson Mandela Foundation would be the primary, but not the only, beneficiary."

She said that once the fund was set up, the Nelson Mandela Foundation would be paid first.

"The president has set aside an amount equal to half his salary since May 2018, which will be placed in the fund once established. It has been agreed that the fund's first payments will be to the Nelson Mandela Foundation."

Diko said that after some delay, the process to establish an independent trust to oversee the fund was now at an advanced stage, with the trust deed being finalised, the trustees identified and several potential funders approached.

She said the aim of the Thuma Mina Fund would be to mobilise South Africans to give back and make a difference, as well as to raise funds for under-resourced initiatives.

"In its initial phases, the fund's mandate includes improving the conditions of early childhood development [ECD] centres in township areas, informal settlements and rural areas.

"It assists with the training of ECD practitioners in the centres, supporting the provision of parent and caregiver ECD awareness and development interventions and encouraging civic activism, volunteerism and deepening the culture of giving back," she said.

Hatang said the Mandela foundation launched the Mandela Initiative, focusing on ECD, after French economist Thomas Piketty came to SA in 2015 and spoke about the importance of early childhood development to end inter-generational poverty.

Ramaphosa's announcement last year was met with both praise and criticism as some said the billionaire president could afford to donate his entire salary.

When he assumed the presidency last year, his net worth was valued at R6.4bn.

Ramaphosa said in parliament that he would donate half of his presidential salary to a fund called the #ThumaMina Fund.

"In memory of Madiba, in recognition of the great sacrifices he made and his tireless commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable, we are looking for people with skills, time and commitment to 'lend a hand' to community-based projects," the president said at the time.

In February this year, Ramaphosa announced that two years of ECD before a child enters grade 1 would be compulsory.

"This is essential in equipping children to succeed in education, in work, and in life - and it is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment, and inequality," he said in his state of the nation address.

In 2017, a study found that if a four-year-old child is in one of the 20% of the country's poorest households, there is only a 50% chance of them attending some sort of education programme.

Last week Ramaphosa commemorated Nelson Mandela Day at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town.