Phala Phala scandal comes back to haunt Ramaphosa days before elections

Published May 21, 2024


The Phala Phala scandal has come back to haunt President Cyril Ramaphosa days before citizens of the country to cast their votes in the May 29 provincial and national elections.

This week, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) demanded that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) reveal the contents of an investigation report into how police officials covered up a crime at the president’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo.

The scandal has also been plunged into the spotlight this week after Ramaphosa confirmed that he was in the process of paying back the Phala Phala money to Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa.

The scandal that ignited an uproar in 2022 involved former spy boss Arthur Frazer laying a charge of money laundering at the Rosebank police station against Ramaphosa.

Frazer accused Ramaphosa of hiding the fact that millions in foreign currency was stolen at the farm. He further accused the president of trying to conceal the crime after the millions in undeclared foreign currency had been hidden in a sofa at the farm.

The charges included defeating the ends of justice, kidnapping of suspects, interrogation on his property and bribery.

The farm was robbed of an alleged $580 000 (about R8.7 million at the time), but Ramaphosa had since denied any involvement in any criminal conduct, saying the money stolen was the proceeds from selling game at his farm.

A number of suspects have since been arrested.

The Section 89 panel chaired by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, found the president may have committed serious violations of the Constitution by “acting in a manner inconsistent with his office”, exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business, as well as violation of sections of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act over the foreign currency that was held at his property in 2020.

This was overturned by the majority of MPs in parliament, shutting the door to the alleged scandal.

However, the matter has recently resurfaced with the ATM looking for answers.

Speaking to ‘The Star’ yesterday ATM president Vuyo Zungula said the party had requested that Ipid unseal the report into the investigation into 11 matters relating to the alleged police cover-up of the theft. However, this has fallen on deaf ears.

“Ipid has not furnished us with the report citing legal provisions that prevent them from sharing the report with us.

“This is something we raised considering the fact that ATM is a complainant on the matter and the fact that the report is complete but we as the complainant have not been given the report and it is something that we have raised sharply with them,” he said.

In a letter written to Ipid on June 21, 2022, Zungula revealed that senior members of the Crime Intelligence Division were tasked with the back-channel tracing of the money and the suspects.

He said it was also revealed that the Presidential Protection Unit head, Wally Rhoode, called on the then Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs for resources to investigate the theft, which was never formally reported.

Responding to ‘The Star’, Ipid said it had completed the investigation into the conduct of the police relating to the theft.

“We can confirm that the investigation was completed. A recommendation report was referred to the SAPS to institute disciplinary steps in line with their regulations,” said Ipid national spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

Asked why this report was referred back to the police while they were fingered in the investigation, Shuping said the police watchdog’s investigations are on conduct of the police, to determine whether they acted lawfully or not.

“If we recommend disciplinary steps to be taken, we recommend that to the police, no one can take disciplinary action against them except senior police officers,” Shuping added.

SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe was contacted for comment. At the time of going to print, she had not replied.

Meanwhile the buffaloes, which were allegedly sold to Mustafa, were never delivered to the businessman, prompting him to ask Ramaphosa for a refund of the dollars he paid in cash at the time, which was later stolen.

Speaking in an interview on 702, Ramaphosa confirmed that the farm will refund the businessman since the buffaloes were not delivered.

“Because he has a claim, it is a claim that has to be made and we are in the process of dealing with that claim. We have to pay him,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya was contacted for comment, however, at the time of going to print, he had not responded.

The Star