/ 30 November 2022

D Day for Ramaphosa as Phala Phala report goes to parliament

South African President Ramaphosa Campaigns In Meadowlands
President Cyril Ramaphosa on the campaign trail in October 2021. (Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

In a few hours’ time, parliament’s panel appointed to determine whether President Cyril Ramaphosa has a case to answer over the Phala Phala scandal will present its report to speaker Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula.

The report, compiled by a panel headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, is set to be made public on 6 December, when parliament is expected to debate its findings.

When it does, it will end six months of speculation, accusation and counter-accusation that have raged since the beginning of June, and will have the potential to force Ramaphosa’s recall by the governing party.

At the beginning of June, former State Security Agency head Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case of corruption, money laundering and defeating the ends of justice against  Ramaphosa over the theft of $4 million at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo in February 2020.

According to Fraser, the money — hidden in a couch — was stolen while the president was abroad and the theft was not reported to the police.

Instead, the burglary, allegedly committed by a group of Namibian nationals, was allegedly covered up and the thieves were tracked down, clandestinely, and interrogated by the head of the presidential protection services, General Wally Rhoode.

The burglary suspects — including a domestic worker employed at the farm who allegedly tipped off her co-conspirators about the money — were allegedly paid off to keep quiet about both the theft of the money and their subsequent abduction and assault.

The presidency responded the following day, with spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirming that a burglary did take place but denying any criminal conduct on the part of Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa subsequently told the ANC provincial conference in Limpopo that the money had come from the sale of game on the farm and that the release of the information around the burglary was part of a political agenda.

He also said that the amount was far less than the $4 million stated by Fraser.

Opposition parties immediately went on the offensive, seeking answers from the South African Revenue Service and the South African Reserve Bank as to whether Ramaphosa had declared the foreign currency and paid tax on it.

They also attempted to bring a motion of no confidence and to appoint an ad hoc committee into Phala Phala in parliament.

Both initiatives failed, but parliament agreed to appoint the panel of experts to decide whether or not the president had a case to answer over the matter, which will deliver its report later today.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane also appointed a probe into Phala Phala — and was suspended several days later in terms of a notice issued by the presidency during May — with her successor, Kholeka Gcaleka, continuing with the probe.

Since June, the president has publicly kept mum on Phala Phala, instead choosing to respond privately to the public protector and the parliamentary panel.

His enemies in the ANC have used the Phala Phala scandal — publicly and in the party’s national executive committee — to force Ramaphosa to stand down before the party’s elective conference in December.

They failed and — like the opposition — have been forced to await the findings of the panel in the hope that it makes an adverse finding against Ramaphosa.

The president made written representations to the panel — he was not required to appear in person — in which he detailed his version of events, along with explanations about where the money came from and how much was actually taken.

The panel has finally wound up its work, and, after an extension, is ready to present its findings today.