President Cyril Ramaphosa File photo: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)

A businessman whose company scored a R2 billion pharmaceutical tender in 2015 is among the donors who gave a total of R1bn to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC leadership campaign in 2017. 

Stavros Nicolaou, of pharmaceutical company Aspen, donated millions of rand to the CR17 campaign trust account through an organisation called the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese Alliance (HIP Alliance) in 2017. 

Leaked emails and other CR17 campaign records show Nicolaou also mobilised 23 other prominent businessmen to do the same at a cocktail party organised by Ramaphosa’s adviser Donné Nicol in December 2017. 

The money was transferred into the Standard Bank account of Ria Tenda Trust, whose trustees include businessman and former MTN chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa, former National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) chairperson James Motlatsi, Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation CEO Donné Nicol and public policy researcher Dr Crispian Garth Olver, according to trust deed documents seen by Independent Media. 

Aspen is one of the major beneficiaries of government contracts. It was among four companies which were jointly awarded a R10 billion tender under former Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to provide the Health Department with antiretroviral medication for three years from 2015 to 2017.

The company scored a R2bn deal while Sonke Pharmaceuticals was awarded R3bn, Cipla Medpro R2bn and Mylan Pharmaceuticals R2.8bn. 

Nicolaou on Saturday confirmed that he “donated money to the ANC” and also attended a cocktail party organised by Ramaphosa. 

He conceded in a released statement that he had exchanged an email with Nicol in November 2017 but claimed it was “redacted so as to alter its original form”. 

“We can further confirm that a cocktail party took place with the assistance of Ms Nicol in December 2017 and the attendees were vastly different to that of the list of the 7th of November 2017. At the cocktail meeting members from the Hellenic and other communities briefly met with the now president and discussed their concerns with him. In return the president explained his vision for our country. The president limited his discussions to the issues of the day and made no mention of funding whatsoever,” Nicolaou said.

“Whilst it may be the case that certain attendees may have made individual contributions to the campaign, for reasons of privacy to these individuals we are not in a position to make any disclosures around this matter. Furthermore, the HIP Alliance’s support for President Ramaphosa is an ongoing matter of public record. The Alliance was and is a firm and active supporter of the president. We believe the positive changes that have taken place since the president’s election to ANC president and that of the republic would not have been possible without his leadership.” 

He said the HIP Alliance was concerned as it seemed the emails “may have been illegally obtained, the ramifications of which amongst others include the further erosion of investor confidence”. 

Despite Aspen having received a R2bn contract from government when Ramaphosa was deputy president, Nicolau said there was no conflict of interest in his organisation funding his ANC campaign. 

“We actually lost in the tender as the lion’s share was awarded to other companies. Aspen and our alliance are two different entities with different agendas,” he said. 

In an email to Nicol on November 7, 2017, Nicolaou told her that 23 businessmen were ready to fund the Ramaphosa campaign provided a cocktail party was arranged. They included Mario Stephanos of Spar Multi Franchise, Hypers Group president Basil Sinodinos, Mining magnate Louka Pourollis, Mario Marfou and John Baladakis. 

In an email to another member of the campaign team, Nicol said: “Stavros says the following would fund if we had a small cocktail party. I need to discuss diary with you.” 

Other prominent donors included Pick n Pay owner Raymond Ackerman, who donated R1 million in July 2017. Ackerman could not be reached for comment on Saturday. 

The emails further reveal that Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was a key player in the fundraising effort. 

He led a team of businessmen to London to raise R15m. It included eNCA owner Johnny Copelyn and banker Colin Coleman, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs for sub-Saharan Africa, who was later tipped to become the country’s minister of investment after this year’s general elections. 

One email from Nicol to her team shows that Mick Davis was to raise R20m from a group in London which included Martin Moshal. 

Another reveals that Nicol told another Ramaphosa adviser, Steyn Speed, they needed to get an overseas service provider to fly to Johannesburg to teach the Ramaphosa campaign team “lessons for 2019 and to learn lessons or build the foundation for building the ANC from January”. 

The emergence of the emails could deepen Ramaphosa’s political and legal problems both in the ANC and in the courts of law after he told Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane during her investigations into the R500 000 Bosasa donation that he had no knowledge of the donations and the identity of the donors.

They also suggest Ramaphosa may have lied to Mkhwebane about his knowledge of the donations and the identities of the donors who contributed to his campaign. 

In one of the emails Ramaphosa thanked a person identified only as Donald for helping him shift R75m from Money Market to Ria Tenda Trust. 

“Thank you for assisting with the internet banking the other day. Could you kindly transfer an amount of R20 million from Money Market Investment that was left after we shifted R75 million from Money Market to Money Market Select to Ria Tenda Trust, Standard Bank, account number @#@#@#@, branch code 004301? I shall call you to confirm all this,” Ramaphosa said. 

In her report, Mkhwebane found Ramaphosa guilty of deliberately misleading Parliament about the R500 000 Bosasa donation, adding that he had denied knowing the identities of the donors. 

Those who took part in the campaign appear to have benefited from the Ramaphosa presidency, including Dabengwa, who has been appointed to the Eskom board. 

Days after winning the May general elections, Ramaphosa appeared at a conference of local and international banks and financial services companies organised by Coleman at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg. 

Ramaphosa used the Goldman Sachs South African conference, which was among his first public appearances as president elect, to outline his five-year plan to turn around the economy and redistribute land. Coleman, who asked Ramaphosa questions, told the conference that the 150 people in attendance had about $400bn in assets. 

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khulela Diko didn’t respond to questions sent on Saturday night.

Sunday Independent