/ 29 July 2022

Ramaphosa ‘refused’ to answer Phala Phala questions at ANC integrity committee meeting

(Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
(Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally appeared before the ANC’s integrity committee, its chairman George Mashamba told Mail & Guardian on Thursday evening. 

Ramaphosa met with the group of elders on Tuesday to discuss the Phala Phala game farm scandal, which many within the ANC claim has brought the governing party into disrepute.  

“He did appear before the commission the day before yesterday,” said Mashamba, adding that the group may call Ramaphosa for another appearance after the national policy conference, which takes place this weekend. 

“The committee will meet after the policy conference to discuss a way forward and if we need to call him again.”

According to insiders, Ramaphosa and the committee clashed after he refused to answer questions about the burglary at the game farm, which has made national and international headlines. The meeting was consequently adjourned. 

Mashamba would not comment on the allegations, and ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to questions. 

This is not the first time that Ramaphosa has reluctantly volunteered to appear before the committee of the party that he leads but refused to respond to questions. 

In December 2020, he volunteered to appear before the committee over allegations that nearly R1 billion was used in his 2017 campaign for ANC president. 

He was accompanied by a lawyer during that meeting and, according to Mashamba, failed to discuss the CR17 campaign. 

Mashamba said at the time that Ramaphosa had ducked the committee for 18 months. 

While it did not make any adverse findings against him, the committee called for any party member with knowledge of the CR17 campaign using money to install Ramaphosa in the top seat to come forward.

Ramaphosa’s appearance before the integrity committee this week follows battles at the party’s national working committee (NWC) and national executive committee (NEC) as his detractors attempted to force him to step-aside following the ongoing Phala Phala scandal.

NEC members including Tony Yengeni placed the charges on the NWC’s agenda by asking that the body take a decision to refer the president to the integrity committee to “explain himself”.

Yengeni also pushed the NWC to instruct Ramaposa to voluntarily submit himself to parliament’s ethics committee to prevent authority on the matter being “claimed” by the opposition and “for them to run with it”.

The Phala Phala scandal erupted when Arthur Fraser, the country’s former spy boss and ally of former president Jacob Zuma, opened a case of money laundering, kidnapping and corruption against Ramaphosa over the theft of an amount alleged to be USD$4-million from the president’s game farm in 2020.

Fraser said he had opened the case against Ramaphosa under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. He said that supporting evidence – including photographs, bank accounts, video footage and names – had been handed to Rosebank police, along with his statement.

He said that the charges related to the theft of the dollars – allegedly the proceeds of the sale of game – were “concealed” at the farm in the Waterberg region of Limpopo, on 9 February 2020. The charges would include defeating the ends of justice, kidnapping of the alleged suspects in the robbery, the interrogation of the suspects, and bribery.

While speaking at the ANC’s Limpopo conference in June, Ramaphosa said that the opening of the case was part of a political ploy to cast aspersions on him because of his undeterred fight against corruption. 

While he was still head of the country’s correctional services, Fraser authorised Zuma’s release on medical parole just two months into the former president’s jail term for contempt of court. 

The release was declared unlawful by the high court, and Zuma was ordered back to prison to complete the remainder of his 15-month sentence, or until he became eligible for normal parole. Zuma appealed that decision, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 15 August.  

Fraser’s contract as national commissioner of correctional services was not renewed.