The president said he never stole money from anywhere, including from taxpayers, and would co-operate with law enforcement agencies who are investigating a case of theft, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice against him.
Mashudu Sadike and Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane
President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied any involvement in “criminal conduct”, saying the estimated $4 million (more than R60m) stolen at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo were the proceeds from the “business transaction of selling animals” because he is a game farmer.
He said he never stole money from anywhere, including from taxpayers, and would co-operate with law enforcement agencies who are investigating a case of theft, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice against him.
Ramaphosa used his closing address to the Limpopo ANC conference in Polokwane on Sunday to respond to allegations made against him by former State Security Agency director general Arthur Fraser in a police affidavit last week.
The president acknowledged the theft but denied the $4 million figure, saying the amount was far lesser than what Fraser claimed in his affidavit.
“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.
“Now, due to the investigation, I will not really be able to engage deeply or further on this matter, as which should allow the due process to take place. However, I would like to say that I’m a farmer. I’m in the cattle business and the game business and through that business which has been declared in Parliament and all over, I buy and I sell animals,” Ramaphosa said.
“I do it through the sales, sometimes through cash or sometimes through transfers. Some of the people who are offshore customers and who are sometimes local, they come through and buy animals, and some of them come also to hunt on the farm.
“And so this that’s being reported was a clear business transaction of selling animals. The amount involved is far less than what has been bandied in the press…barbaric $84 million and so forth. I want to say it’s far less than some are casting aspersions about me and money.”
Ramaphosa told ANC delegates that he had “never stolen money from anywhere, be it from our taxpayers” because “my integrity as a leader will never allow me to do so.”
He implied that the charges were politically motivated, adding they would not stop him from fighting corruption. “And some of these things, clearly they have their own political agenda. And we are all aware of that.
“But it will not deter me from fighting corruption because I have never stolen tax payers money.”
This came as the African Transformation Movement (ATM) asked Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to investigate Ramaphosa over the $4 million robbery, in what a political analyst said was a sign that the president’s ability to “fool the public into believing that he was South Africa’s messiah against corruption” was crumbling.
ATM president Vuyo Zungula penned a two-page letter requesting Mkhwebane investigate a possible breach of the Executive Members Code of Ethics against the president.
“The ATM draws your attention to s96(2)(a) of the Constitution, which prohibits members of Cabinet from undertaking any other paid work. It is the view of the ATM that anyone with cash amounting to millions of US dollars can only be involved in trading whose legitimacy needs to be established. Whether the trading is legit or not it constitutes paid work and thus a violation of the said section of the Constitution. Please investigate.
“Should you find other transgressions that may not be within your mandate to investigate, please do not hesitate to refer those to appropriate authorities as you see it,” Zungula wrote.
In his 48-page affidavit, Fraser said $4m was stolen at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala Game Farm in February 2020 and the suspects tortured.
“During the incident, large undisclosed sums of United States dollars concealed in the furniture in the main farmhouse had been unlawfully removed from the president’s premises by the assailants.
“The incident was not officially reported to the police to investigate. However, Ramaphosa instructed Major-General Roode to immediately investigate the incident, to apprehend the suspects and to retrieve the stolen dollars.”
Fraser added that some of the money stolen was recovered, along with documentary evidence of how the other amounts were spent by the alleged robbers.
“Staff members, including the domestic worker, were interrogated at the Phala Phala farm. The domestic worker was subsequently initially dismissed from her employment at Phala Phala, but was later reinstated following discussions between President Ramaphosa and the domestic worker’s father,” reads the affidavit.
Fraser stated that amounts of R150,000 were paid to each participant in the robbery to keep them quiet.
Professor Sipho Seepe said Zungula’s complaint, Fraser’s criminal charges and Glencore’s corruption admissions in the U.S expose the folly of Ramaphosa’s corruption-buster rhetoric.
“When he was sworn in as state president he told the country that he was no longer a businessman, but now we learn that his business has been robbed and he reported the robbery to the head of his Presidential Protection Unit of the South African Police Service.
If he is a complainant in a business robbery, that makes him an active business owner, but the media machinery he has on his side will pretend they don’t see the glaring contradiction.”
“When Justice Raymond Zondo asked him why he kept quiet during what Ramaphosa termed the nine wasted years of state capture when he claimed to have known what was going on his answer shocked the nation. He said he was afraid to lose his job.”
“When a recording of his ANC NEC meeting was leaked in which he is heard saying he knew of comrades using public funds to run political party campaigns he could be heard saying he kept the information to himself because he was afraid to embarrass the ANC. ”
“Now, this week it emerges that the same Ramaphosa admits he knew about the farm robbery but could not tell the public because he was afraid to cause panic.
“It is clear that there is a pattern of fear to do what is right and a lack of accountability,” Seepe added.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the Presidency was not aware of Zungula’s complaint.
“The office of the President has not received notification regarding this alleged ATM complaint to the Public Protector, therefore we are not able to comment.
“The President’s responses to Scopa (standing committee on public accounts) about the Mr [ANC MP Mervyn] Dirks complaint is public knowledge and we will be guided by Scopa on any next steps.
“The president has responded and accounted consistently to the Zondo Commission and to SCOPA. Any suggestion otherwise is false ,” Magwenya said.