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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign team has gone into crisis mode, undertaking to audit all monies — from more than 200 individuals — that came into its coffers ahead of his election as ANC president, to ensure that “fundraising processes” and the “sources of funding” were “above board”.
This is after Ramaphosa had to backtrack on a response to a parliamentary question by DA leader Mmusi Maimane about a payment of R500,000 from controversial security firm Bosasa.
Ramaphosa said when he answered Maimane’s question he was unaware that the payment had been made as a donation to his campaign and not to his son Andile’s consultancy firm, as he had initially stated.
Now Ramaphosa’s campaign management team has said he was not kept in the loop on the funding and fundraising had been intentionally ring-fenced from other campaign functions.
Maimane told Business Day on Sunday that the matter showed the ANC was rotten to the core.
The DA leader now wants Ramaphosa to set up an independent inquiry, headed by a retired judge, to look into all of Bosasa’s dealings with the government. He said the inquiry should also be tasked with determining whether Ramaphosa had lied to parliament. Andile Ramaphosa has a contract with African Global Operations — previously Bosasa — for the provision of consultancy services in a number of African countries, but excluding SA to avoid a conflict of interest.
In a statement on Friday, the presidency said Ramaphosa had informed the speaker of parliament that he was made aware after his question-and-answer session that the money was in fact a donation towards his campaign. He said he had not been aware of this at the time and the donation was made without his knowledge.
The statement from Ramaphosa, in which he backtracked on his parliamentary response, excited those in the ANC who continue to support former president Jacob Zuma, with insiders in those camps saying it was only a matter of time until Ramaphosa could be successfully challenged as party boss, given his tenuous victory over Zuma’s preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the Nasrec conference in December 2017.
Zuma backers are likely to continue to lie low until after the election in 2019, but the run-up to the ANC’s next national general council — when a decision on an early elective conference can be taken — is expected to be fractious.
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UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said given the fact that Ramaphosa misled parliament about Bosasa, it would only be “fair” if he came back to the National Assembly and took MPs into his confidence on the matter and explained under which circumstances he misled them.
EFF leader Julius Malema reportedly also called on Friday for the president to come back to parliament and explain himself.
Meanwhile, a senior ANC leader aligned to Ramaphosa said the Bosasa matter was being used in a factional way by the president’s detractors within the party, and that this must be seen against the backdrop of the noose tightening on corruption.
The leader said the issue was a non-story and he believed it would blow over quickly, as the party was now focusing on elections. He did say, however, there was push-back within the party from the “other group” and that this relates to the Zondo commission, among other matters.
Another Ramaphosa ally said while the Zuma group would seek to capitalise on this, there was no reason for him to worry.
A statement from Ramaphosa’s campaign management team on Sunday sought to draw a distinction between the president and his campaigners. The statement said the “CR17” campaign — comprising of a number of structures including a finance task team — was established and managed by “like-minded individuals” to support Ramaphosa.
“To avoid conflicts of interests and to completely eliminate any expectation of reciprocal intent, action or preferential treatment by donors, real or perceived, the fundraising team was ring-fenced from other operations,” the statement said. “Consequently, it was also determined that President Ramaphosa should not be involved in the fundraising effort and that he shouldn’t have a record of donors, although he was asked on occasion to attend dinners with potential donors.”
The campaign management team said the donations were for venue hire, transport and accommodation, and that Ramaphosa, his family and foundation had not received any of it.
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CBN signals end to official rate regime for naira
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may soon allow the naira to freely find its value, with a possible depreciation on the official rate, usually pegged at about N305/$, an update on its website has indicated.
The development is signaling an end to the most criticised foreign exchange rate window, which has been used mostly for government’s critical businesses that affect the public, particularly the importation of petroleum products.
If the move sees light of day, it will mean that the value of the naira at the official window is depreciated with its concomitant closure of the peg.
Yesterday, the apex bank, as opposed to the usual publication of the fixed exchange rate, opted to publish that “the rate will be market-determined.”
According to a report, the President of Shippers Association of Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said the Nigeria Customs Service had allegedly directed importers to pay for duties at the rate of N326 per dollar against the official rate of N306, citing an order from the CBN.
Also yesterday, the interbank rate depreciated by 0.2 per cent to N360.43 per dollar at the close of trading, while the parallel market remained steady at N360 per dollar.
A move toward a market-determined exchange rate would be welcomed by investors, who have long accused government of some level of capital controls and bemoaned multiple exchange rates.
The Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, Yewande Sadiku, was quoted as saying the apex bank was in talks with other agencies to move to a single rate for the nation’s currency.
For an economic analyst at Ecobank, Kunle Ezun, “putting that on the website means the central bank is gradually moving towards a single exchange-rate window. It is making the exchange rate more liquid to attract more inflows.”
U.S blames Iran for oil tankers explosion
The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices LCOc1 and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation.
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It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
One source said the blast on the Front Altair, which caught fire and sent a huge plume of smoke into the air, may have been caused by a magnetic mine. The firm that chartered the Kokuka Courageous tanker said it was hit by a suspected torpedo, but a person with knowledge of the matter said torpedoes were not used.
On Thursday night, U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous “and was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.
The tanker attack will not affect Japanese energy supply, Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said, although the ministry issued a warning to Japanese energy companies.
Crude oil prices spiked more than 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf energy producers. Prices later settled about 2% higher. [O/R] Brent crude LCOc1 was down by 0.4% at $61.06 a barrel in early Asia trading.
The United States, which has accused Iran or its proxies of carrying out a May 12 attack on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast as well as May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations, squarely blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks.
“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here told reporters.
“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” Pompeo said.
Iran “categorically rejects the U.S. unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday evening.
It accused the United States and its regional allies, which include Iranian rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, of “warmongering.” Iran called on “the international community to live up to its responsibilities in preventing the reckless and dangerous policies and practices of the U.S. and its regional allies in heightening the tensions in the region.”
U.S. and European security officials as well as regional analysts cautioned against jumping to conclusions about who carried out the attacks, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies, or someone else entirely, might have been responsible.
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