There is no let-up to get President Cyril Ramaphosa out of office for alleged corruption dating back to 2020 when his farm was burgled. Using the hashtag #PhalaPhalaFarmGate critics are passing the message that he should resign or be forced out of power for corruption and for misleading the public.
On 9 February 2020, Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm, in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, was burgled by five Namibian nationals in collaboration with an employee. The thieves reportedly stole millions of United States dollars and vanished into neighbouring countries.
But who owned the millions of dollars on the farm? Why would the President leave millions of dollars there when it’s against the law?
On 1 June 2022, former director-general of South Africa’s State Security Agency Arthur Fraser accused Ramaphosa of money laundering and corruption and said that he covered up the scale of the theft at the farm. In his affidavit, Fraser alleged that about US$4m, stored in furniture on the farm, had been taken. Ramaphosa was instructed by the ANC to appear before its integrity committee to address the matter.
Since then, South Africans have taken up the fight to see that the President is not only investigated but forced out of office. Many calls have been made for the President to resign but he’s snubbed them all.
Read more: No Let Up in The Call for Ramaphosa To Resign, UBETOO, 22 June 2022
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Where Did the Money Come From?
Earlier this month, the Sunday Independent reported that Police were investigating one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisers for allegedly smuggling foreign currency on behalf of the president. The unidentified aide is said to be under investigation by the police’s priority crimes unit for smuggling money from Qatar and Saudi Arabia on a private jet while travelling on a diplomatic passport.
This version of events is at odds with Ramaphosa’s statement that the source of the foreign currency, which was stolen from his farm in 2020, was the proceeds from the sale of livestock.
Read more: Police are investigating Ramaphosa adviser, media report says, Business Live, 3 July 2022
Four Criminal Allegations
In a 12-page statement made to the police who opened a criminal case, Fraser detailed Ramaphosa’s attempt to cover up a crime. The statement accused the President of money laundering, kidnapping, corruption and obstructing the course of justice.
Money laundering: Fraser said $4 million (R63 million) was taken unlawfully by five men who were allegedly contacted by the domestic worker. The mere fact that Ramaphosa had undisclosed amounts of dollars in his residence should be proof of money laundering.
Kidnapping: Rather than reporting the theft to the police, Ramaphosa allegedly informed the head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Major-General Wally Rhoode. Rhoode and his team – consisting of former South African Police Service (“SAPS”) members and members of the crime intelligence office – interrogated the suspects at the farm. Fraser claimed that their actions amounted to kidnapping as the suspects were denied their personal freedom of movement and constitutional rights.
Corruption and obstructing the course of justice: In an attempt to conceal the theft of undeclared cash, Ramaphosa allegedly paid the criminals to keep quiet about the incident at his farm. Fraser said the president concealed the crime from the SAPS and South African Revenue Service and paid the culprits for their silence. He claims the suspects were paid R150 000 in cash in exchange for silence.
Delivering the closing address at the Limpopo elective conference on 5 June 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa responded to Fraser’s claims made in the criminal complaint against him:
“I want to reaffirm that I was not involved in any criminal conduct and once again I pledge my full cooperation with any form of investigation.”
In a potential twist, one of the men who helped Imanuwela David, the alleged mastermind behind the burglary, get to the Namibian border four months after the theft has a surprising connection to South Africa’s former head of state, Jacob Zuma.
According to a Namibian police report, when David was questioned by the Namibian Police, he claimed to have paid a certain ‘Papa J’ R50 000 “to arrange people in Namibia and RSA to smuggle him into Namibia”.
AmaBhungane has established the identity of Papa J, whose real name is Mfundo Jele. He said he met Zuma through a former employee who was indirectly related to the former president via the Mzobe family. According to Jele, he would visit Zuma and have friendly conversations about the history of the country and the Zulu people, but had no political or business relationship with him.
- Farmgate: A Look Into 4 Criminal Allegations Levelled Against President Cyril Ramaphosa, Briefly, 16 June 2022
- DA asks FBI to investigate ‘money laundering’ at Ramaphosa’s farm, Sowetan Live, 21 June 2022
- Zuma link to man who drove Phala Phala ‘mastermind’ to border, The Namibian, 6 July 2022
Calls for the FBI to Investigate Ramaphosa
On 20 June, Democratic Alliance (“DA”) leader John Steenhuisen said the DA had written to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) to probe allegations of money laundering against President Cyril Ramaphosa. Steenhuisen said they believe that the FBI should look into the matter because it involves US currency.
“Specifically, we have requested that the FBI considers investigating the source of the funds and whether the money was brought into SA legitimately and declared to the appropriate authorities.”
On 21 June, during a media briefing at the DA’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Steenhuisen said they had taken nine steps to ensure that Ramaphosa is held accountable. Writing to the FBI was the first. Read the full nine steps HERE.
- DA Approaches FBI to Investigate Ramaphosa For Money Laundering, Eyewitness News, 21 June 2022
- DA calls in the FBI to probe allegations of money laundering at Phala Phala farm, Saffarazzi, 22 June 2022
Peeling Away the Layers of the Criminal Onion
Our country has been seized with the first criminal allegations made against a sitting head of state since the dawn of democracy, wrote Michael Mayalo last month. The potential damage this may cause to the institution of the Presidency is catastrophic. Yet South African democratic institutions will once again be tested by how fast the police and the judiciary act in this alleged crime.
By now, even the poorest of the poor know that a robbery took place at their president’s palace on Phala Phala farm. It is not an alleged robbery because the Presidency itself confirmed the crime. This is the first layer of the crime.
The second layer is the alleged cover-up of the crime, thereby defeating the ends of justice, the kidnapping and potential money laundering and corruption.
The third layer of this crime is the president’s own involvement. He knew about the housebreaking and robbery, we are told.
Yet another layer of this crime that has yet to be mentioned is the role that the banks played.
Read more: Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala Farmgate: Why was FNB silent about massive unexplained deposits? Michael Mayalo, IOL, 7 June 2022
31 Questions for Ramaphosa
Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who is currently undergoing a parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office, had sent Ramaphosa 31 questions shortly before the President suspended her on 9 June.
One of Mkhwebane’s questions asked for confirmation from Ramaphosa on “whether there was cash to the tune of [$4 million] stashed within your premises at Phala Phala farm.”
In another question, Mkhwebane wanted to know if the president told Rhoode, to handle the situation without telling the police. “If yes, what did those directions say? Please explain if General Rhoode kept you up to date on his investigation of this matter [and if there were] any other steps to make sure the alleged theft of cash was thoroughly investigated.”
Although Ramaposa was given an initial deadline to respond to the investigating team for the Public Protector within 14 days, he was later granted an extension to 18 July. After Ramaphosa missed the second deadline he requested a second extension which acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka rejected last week. The Public Protector then said it would invoke subpoena powers to compel President Cyril Ramaphosa to respond to its questions.
The president’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirmed on Friday that the president had sent a written response to the Public Protector’s office that morning.
Mkhwebane also sent Rhoode and national police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, a list of questions to answer.
In his response to the Public Protector, Rhoode revealed the roles allegedly played by the President and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob. Four sources told Sunday Independent this week that Rhoode “opened a can of worms” in his response to a public protector inquiry and revealed damning information, some of it not even in the public domain.
Sunday Independent was informed that Masemola admitted in his response that state resources were used to conduct a clandestine investigation to apprehend the robbers even though there was no official case opened in South Africa about the robbery at Ramaphosa’s farm.
On 13 July, Masemola stepped down as National Police Commissioner and the next day Roode was side-lined as Presidential Protection head.
- List of 31 Questions Mkhwebane asked Ramaphosa, Opera News, 13 June 2022
- Wally Rhoode spills the beans on Farmgate, Sunday Independent, 25 July 2022
- Public Protector invokes subpoena powers in Ramaphosa farm probe, Moneyweb, 19 July 2022
- Ramaphosa answers Mkhwebane’s 31 questions on Phala Phala saga, Eyewitness News, 22 July 2022
- Farmgate fallout — Major-General Wally Rhoode sidelined as presidential protection head, Daily Maverick, 14 July 2022
What Were the Answers to the 31 Questions?
It seems the public will have to wait to hear the answers to Mkhwebane’s questions as Ramaphosa’s answers, for the time being, remain sealed. On Monday, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was back in the Western Cape High Court to challenge her suspension and she submitted a counter application to obtain Ramaphosa’s answers to her questions.
Mr. Tshweu tweeted clips from the Court proceedings: “People’s Adv @AdDali_Mpofu’s compelling case for People’s PP @AdvBMkhwebane — on why things changed/moved so quickly with the suspension of PP after she requested Pres. Ramaphosa answer #31Questions re #PhalaPhalaFarmGate. @ CT High Court (July 25-26) Part B of PP vs Speaker of NA”
“Why did the President suspend the Public Protector on the 9th of June? … Why did it take the Public Protector writing 31 questions on the 7th of June to do with the Phala Phala scandal for the President to be triggered to act on the 9th?
“The inference is irresistible. There is no other explanation why the president will conduct himself like that, apart from retaliation… Is that consistent with the constitution? No!”
NewsRoom Afrika tweeted yesterday: “President Cyril Ramaphosa’s answers on the Phala Phala Farm robbery will remain sealed. His legal counsel told the Western Cape High Court that Ramaphosa does not want to jeopardise the investigation” and included in their tweet was their report on the Court proceedings of the previous day:
“The Phala Phala farm investigation that’s currently taking place in the office of the Public Protector was centre stage during the first day of court … Advocate Dali Mpofu is arguing they want those responses. To some extent, they will be arguing that those responses should even be made public for members of the country to actually see what had transpired in Limpopo when that money was stolen.”
Cyril wants the answers to the 31 questions about #PhalaPhalaFarmGate sealed? Princess tweeted yesterday:
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