A WhatsApp message that has been doing the rounds, purporting to be correspondence directed to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa from a Sunday newspaper, has been rubbished as a deliberate smear campaign.
Ramaphosa sent out a statement on Saturday responding to reports on said message and emails he says were obtained illegally.
"It has come to my attention‚ through questions that were sent to me by the editor of a Sunday newspaper‚ that a number of emails from my private email account have been illegally obtained and provided to at least one media outlet. From the nature and tone of the questions‚ it is clear that the intention of obtaining the emails and then providing them to the media was to discredit my person," he said in the statement.
Ramaphosa said he felt compelled to respond to "deeply disturbing suggestions" that he had paid money to several young women with whom he was supposedly in relationships.
"There are 54 young students – both men and women – that my wife and I provide financial assistance to on a monthly basis and have done so for several years. It is unfortunate that evidence of these bank transfers have been used to make scandalous allegations against me and‚ worse‚ to make public the names of some of the people assisted," he said.
He continued: "We find it disturbing that the privacy of these young women has been violated through the publication of their names and pictures on social media. It shows a callous disregard for the rights of the individual‚" he said in the statement.
Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said: "There is no doubt that these messages have been circulated as part of a deliberate campaign to smear the person of the deputy president.
"They are a transparent attempt to distort personal email correspondence that could only have been obtained through criminal means," he said.
Attempts to get comment from Steven Motale, the alleged author of the correspondence, were unsuccessful at the time of publishing.
On Friday evening, EFF leader Julius Malema issued a tweet describing the messages as "dirty tricks on steroids".
Ramaphosa, his wife & supporters will have to be extremely strong especially as they move closer to the conference, dirty tricks on steroids— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) September 1, 2017