20 July 2024 | 11:30 PM

Malema’s granny also part of family trust fund

Key Takeaways

Julius Malema’s grandmother, Sarah Malema, is also a trustee of the Ratanang Family Trust that was revealed by City Press on Sunday.

The 81-year-old woman was added as a co-trustee in May last year, an inspection of the trust deed shows. At the time the president of the ANC Youth League found himself and his business dealings the subject of a relentless media probe.

City Press likened the so-called “secret” trust to a “slush-fund” used “to launder illicit funds”.

One businessman was quoted as saying he deposited R200 000 into the account for a public tender Malema allegedly put his way. The businessman claimed that many other business people did likewise.

The allegations have prompted AfriForum and the Congress of South African Trade Unions to call for an investigation into possible criminal activity.

Should Malema face the music for fraud or money laundering through the trust, it potentially exposes his grandmother too, although she might call upon a clause in the trust deed which specifies that “a trustee is not responsible for the fraudulent actions of a co-trustee, unless the trustees cooperated with one another”.

The pair are “entitled to remuneration that does not exceed 5% of the gross income of the trust”.

But just how much Malema or his grandmother has drawn down from the fund is not known. Nor is it clear how much the Ratanang Family Trust has earned since 2007. Equally unclear is the number of bank accounts attached to the entity, or the assets listed in its name.

Nothing to hide

Though Malema has refused to divulge those details in public, a fortnight ago he acknowledged the existence of the trust in private.

“I can open my personal account. I can open my trust accounts,” he said, adding: “There is nothing to hide.”

He also claimed that its accounts were in order and “up-to-date”, as was his income tax bill. That information cannot be verified with South African Revenue Service as they are not entitled to divulge a person’s tax affairs.

The trust was founded on October 25 2007, on the eve of the ANC conference in Polokwane that brought Jacob Zuma to power and Malema and his allies into political vogue. In setting it up, Malema was acting on the advice of a well-known businessman, according to two men familiar with Malema’s affairs.

According to the trust’s deed, which is held at the Master of the High Court in Pretoria, Malema was initially listed as the sole trustee and donor, on behalf of his four-year-old son Ratanang Ramohlale. The detail of the beneficiary were later changed to include “any other beneficiary nominated by the trustees from time to time”.

Fiona Forde is the author of the soon-to-be-released book An Inconvenient Youth: Julius Malema and the ‘new’ ANC

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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