ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema allegedly receives cash – which could be as high as 45 percent of total profits – from business people on whose behalf he arranges tenders from government.
This emerged on Saturday at the South Gauteng High Court where the ANC politician lost a bid to gag City Press from publishing details of deals he made with business people. Malema’s lavish lifestyle became an obsession after The Sunday Independent published a story last week showing that his R3 million Sandton house was demolished to make way for a R16m mansion in Sandown suburb.
Malema’s woes were compounded by a businessman who claimed to have paid R200 000 for the youth leader’s benefit.
City Press, which overturned a court interdict by Malema aimed at squashing reports into a family trust that he benefits from, had gained access to the bank records of the Ratanang Family Trust into which Malema allegedly paid “millions of rands” in cash received in exchange for favours for businessmen. Editor Ferial Haffajee said Malema’s failure to interdict the newspaper from publishing the information sent a very clear message on the principles of freedom of speech.
“I am very happy with that,” she said.
Haffajee said the success was also an indication that the media were close to determining “how the money flows” when finding out how a man who professed to earn only R20 000 a month as ANCYL leader was able to afford several houses, Breitling watches, upmarket vehicles, pay cash for lavish outings and own a portion of a farm.
Malema earlier this week angrily denied spending R16 million on a new pad in Sandown, saying he was a “private citizen” who did not have to reveal his personal financial, or other details, to the public.
But The Sunday Independent established this week that he was still an active director of at least two companies, and that he owned properties including in Seshego, Polokwane.
This week he admitted to owning a farm near Dendron, north of Polokwane. On Friday, Malema received a list of questions from City Press about the Ratanang Family Trust, which was allegedly a key source of income. He refused to answer most of the questions indicating that they were false and defamatory.
Malema was trying to stop claims that a businessman, whose name was withheld, paid R200 000 into an ABSA account under Malema’s control “as a reward for having facilitated a tender for his company”. Another allegation was that he received “cash payments worth ‘thousands of rands’ from contractors, individuals and politicians into the trust, in exchange for securing them lucrative tenders, protecting them politically or pushing their political agendas”.
In addition, he was alleged to charge a fee of at least 45 percent of total profits made from a tender secured for contractors.
Malema, in an affidavit submitted in court on Saturday, said the claims were false.
But, Judge Colin Lamont (who had also presided over Malema’s hate speech trial), said Saturday that Malema had not only failed to respond to the questions e-mailed to him by the journalists, but also failed to properly deal with the allegations in his application.
The judge found that the source, a transcript of whose evidence he had seen and received a tape recording of, could be considered reliable given that the information had been corroborated.
Judge Lamont said on the facts before him it “appears that there is some substance” in the allegations. He found that information pertaining to the “high profile public figure who has made controversial statements in the recent past” and about whose ability to afford a lavish lifestyle there had been much public debate was “topical and relevant”.
“The public have a right to full disclosure on people in public positions, high profile people and those who invite comment about them(selves)”.
Malema did not deal with the allegations in court papers, prompting the newspaper to launch a counter-application requesting the details of interests of the Ratanang Family Trust, of which Malema is the sole trustee.
In an affidavit Haffajee requests details of stakes in property, companies and corporations along with bank statements from May 2008 to date.
“Even on the strength of nothing more than the transactions performed on any such bank accounts, the inference can be drawn as to the nature of the income that the applicant enjoys through this conduit,” she says.
The counter-application was postponed until both sides have drawn up full court papers. Malema was ordered to pay the costs of yesterday’s hearing.
Opposition parties on Saturday renewed calls for a probe into Malema’s finances.
The DA’s Dianne Kohler-Barnard said she would contact SARS “every week” until a probe was undertaken into how Malema had gone from “zero to a rich man in two years”.
ACDP leader the Rev Kenneth Meshoe said it was “outrageous” that a young man with limited education lived the high life with no obvious source of money. “We demand that a thorough investigation be carried out. Are there any other sources of income we don’t know about?” asked Meshoe.