/ 6 March 2023

‘Record does not exist’ that $580 000 paid to Ramaphosa farm was declared on entry in South Africa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Democratic Alliance said on Monday it had obtained information directly from the South African Revenue Service (Sars) which showed that the US dollars hidden inside a couch at the Phala Phala game farm of President Cyril Ramaphosa were not declared to the tax agency upon entering the country.

The official opposition party said it garnered the information after submitting a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to Sars in December 2022. 

“The response by Sars means that we now know that the president of South Africa had hidden dirty dollars, which had entered the country illegally, inside a couch on his game farm,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a statement.

“It renders Ramaphosa’s claim that these funds were merely the proceeds of a business transaction impossible to believe, because legitimate business transactions are usually not hidden from Sars inside a couch. It now seems more likely than ever that Ramaphosa may have been in possession of these dirty dollars for a corrupt, illicit or criminal purpose.”

In its responses to Steenhuisen, seen by Mail & Guardian, Sars said “after reasonable steps were taken to find the record requested in your PAIA application the record does not exist and/or cannot be found”.

“Accordingly, I notify you in terms of section 23(1) of PAIA that it is not possible to give you access to the record as requested,” it said.

Last year Ramaphosa said he had received $580 000 in cash from Hazim Mustafa, a Sudanese businessman, as payment for buffalo as part of a legitimate business transaction in December 2019. For his part, Mustafa claimed in a media interview that he had complied with the requirement to declare the money to Sars officials at OR Tambo airport upon entering South Africa.

In 2020, burglars gained access to the Phala Phala farm and made off with an undisclosed amount of dollars. The burglary was undisclosed until July 2022, when former State Security Agency director general Arthur Fraser reported a criminal case to Rosebank police station accusing Ramaphosa and his head of security, Major General Wally Rhoode, of a cover-up.

On Monday, Steenhuisen said the information from the tax authorities added further credence to the findings of a panel headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo that prima facie evidence existed that Ramaphosa may have violated the constitution, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and his oath of office.

Last week the constitutional court unanimously dismissed Ramaphosa’s efforts to seek direct access to overturn the panel’s findings. The court said it “has concluded that no case has been made out for exclusive jurisdiction or direct access” and hence the application was dismissed.

This ruling means that the president will have to turn to the high court if he wishes to challenge the report.

The DA said it would introduce the new information from Sars as evidence that the Ngcobo panel’s report must stand, should Ramaphosa turn to another court in a bid to avoid accountability. 

“We will also submit this information to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as yet another reason why she must accede to the DA’s request for the urgent establishment of an ad hoc committee to fully expose the truth behind the president’s dirty dollars,” Steenhuisen said.