President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Reuters)
President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to provide answers on the origin of the money that was stolen from his private game farm in 2020 and on efforts to recover it, an independent panel chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has found.
“We think that the president has a case to answer on the origin of the foreign currency that was stolen, as well as the underlying transaction for it,” said the report by the panel published late on Wednesday.
“There are weighty considerations which leave us in substantial doubt as to whether the stolen foreign currency is the proceeds of sale.”
The panel, which investigated whether Ramaphosa has a case to answer on impeachable misconduct, said there was a substantial doubt about the legitimacy of the source of the currency that was stolen.
“This is a very serious matter, which, if established, renders the violation of section 96 of the Constitution and PRECCA [Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act], a serious violation, and a serious misconduct,” it said.
The three-person panel was appointed after an impeachment motion was tabled by African Transformation Movement leader Vuyo Zungula. The motion charged that Ramaphosa breached the law by performing paid work outside his functions of office, failing to report the burglary to the police and ordering his head of security, Wally Rhoode, to investigate the crime in clandestine fashion.
It said it was satisfied that the evidence submitted to it pointed, prima facie, to a violation of section 96(2)(a) read with section 83(b) of the Constitution, which would put him in breach of the prohibition on performing other paid work.
“In all the circumstances, we are satisfied that the president has a case to answer in relation to charge 1.”
The panel rejected Ramaphosa’s submission that the farm was running at a loss was irrelevant, and untested.
“Paid work remains paid work irrespective of whether the entity may be running at a loss. The president has not provided us with any record showing that the business is running at a loss.”
The panel was tasked to weigh whether the evidence submitted to it provided sufficient proof that the president had committed a serious violation of the law or the Constitution, or was guilty of serious misconduct.
It concluded that there was also prima facie evidence that Ramaphosa solicited help from his Namibian counterpart to trace the burglary suspects and that Rhoode crossed the border in pursuit of them.
It said there was no indication that anybody other than Rhoode investigated the incident.
“Furthermore, the information before the panel also establishes, prima facie: that the president sought assistance from the president of Namibia in apprehending the suspect, who was in Namibia at the time, and General Rhoode went to Namibia in the pursuit of the investigations of the house breaking and theft of money.”
The misconduct pointed to suggests it was carried out with the aim of keeping the investigation secret, the panel added.
“The request to the Namibian police to “handle the matter with discretion confirms this intention”.
The report will be debated by the National Assembly next Tuesday.
Ramaphosa responded to the report by saying the findings merit “careful reading and appropriate consideration in the interest of the stability of government and that of the country”.