South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is the owner of Phala Phala Farm. In 2022, he was caught up in a heavy political scandal as Arthur Fraser, the former head of the State Security Agency, laid a criminal complaint against him regarding the Phala Phala robbery of which $4 million (R60 million) was allegedly stolen.
Ramaphosa faced possible impeachment in late 2022 after it came to light that a robbery took place at his farm in February 2020 and a large amount of foreign currency was alleged to have been stolen at the farm. He, however, maintained his innocence, stating that he didn’t do any wrong as he had no part in the crime. After a series of investigations, the president was cleared of any wrongdoing by the acting public protector in March 2023.
Where is Phala Phala Farm?
Phala Phala Farm, also known as Phala Phala Wildlife Farm, is located about 43 km West of Bela-Bela in the Limpopo Province. Located within the Central Bushveld Bio-region, the farm is a new rare game group of farms established with the purpose of breeding. Hence, it strives to contribute to the enhancement and extension of South Africa’s conservation efforts by helping to preserve the country’s wildlife heritage.
Who is Phala Phala Owner?
Phala Phala Farm is owned by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The popular wildlife farm has been in operation since 2010. It spans 4,500 hectares (11,120 acres). Staying true to its name, ‘Phala,’ which is a Tswana word for an ‘Impala Buck’ or ‘red antelope’, the farm focuses on acquiring the best genetics in buffalo, golden oryx, white impala, roan antelope, and sable antelope.
Over the years, Phala Phala Farm has proven that their targeted strategy of genetic choice is right by breeding offspring of these well-chosen top-quality animals, which have yielded millions of rands to the president. Oftentimes, private auctions organized by several associations of wildlife breeders in the country and abroad take place at the farm.
According to Sunday World, Ramaphosa has pocketed more than R60 million in the sale of game at the Phala Phala Farm based on the information from Stud Game Breeders. The auction data which goes back to 2017 shows the following sales:
- In September 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa made R2.7 million from a private auction and also netted R14.6 million via a live auction.
- In September 2018, R2.4 million was generated in sales through a silent auction and also, R14.7 million from a live auction.
- Five months before Phala Phala Farm was robbed in February 2020, the president took in R14 million from both the silent and live auctions.
- In March 2020, the auction brought in only R135,000 as the robbery seemed to have slowed down the sales of animals at the farm.
- In September 2020, animals valued at R4 million were sold at Phala Phala.
- In March 2021, the farm brought in R1 million from auctions.
- In September 2022, animals worth R6.4 million were sold at Phala Phala Wildlife Farm.
It’s noteworthy that the president joined Stud Game Breeder in 2010. He also has another farm called Ntaba Nyoni located in Mpumalanga.
How is Cyril Ramaphosa Connected to Phala Phala?
— The Star (@TheStar_news) December 22, 2022
In 2018, when Ramaphosa became the president of South Africa, he made it known to the parliament and the secretary of the cabinet about being a cattle and game farmer, who owns some farms in the country, including Phala Phala. However, he was accused by Arthur Fraser – the former head of the State Security Agency of concealing a crime and defeating the ends of justice by committing breaches of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 when his farm was robbed in 2020.
Fraser stated that in addition to not reporting the crime that occurred at his Phala Phala Farm, Cyril Ramaphosa failed to declare to the reserve bank the existence of a large amount of foreign currency stashed in a couch in the farmhouse. He further alleged that the crime suspects were eventually kidnapped and interrogated at the farm and were paid off not to disclose the incident to anyone.
In the wake of the allegations of violating his oath of office in the manner he handled the robbery, the president maintained his innocence. He stated that throughout his term as the president, he had endeavored to abide by his oath of office and equally, respect the constitution, institutions, due process, and law. He added that even though the theft happened when he was attending the African Union Summit in Ethiopia, he reported the crime to the head of the Presidential Protection unit which handled the investigations.
He further clarified that he did not make the theft public as he didn’t want to cause alarm within the farming community.
Phala Phala Robbery
On June 1st, 2022, Arthur Fraser lodged a criminal complaint against Cyril Ramaphosa at Rosebank police station in Johannesburg. In the 12-page sworn statement he filed, he accused the president of money laundering, bribery, kidnapping, and concealing a crime in relation to the alleged burglary that occurred at his Phala Phala Farm, where $4 million (R60 million) was stolen.
He supported his affidavit with closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, documents, and photographs of the alleged theft. Arthur Fraser narrated that it was a domestic worker at Phala Phala Farm who discovered the foreign currency hidden in the couch. She lived off the farm in the village of Cyferskyl where many Namibians inhabited at the time. And discussed her findings with some of her neighbors who got some Namibians based in Cape Town involved.
Afterward, the gang, which allegedly included four Namibians and two South Africans, broke into the Phala Phala Farmhouse on or about February 9th, 2020 around 10 PM, and the robbery was allegedly recorded on CCTV. The burglars were said to have entered the wrong room at first but were directed to the room where the foreign currency was hidden by the domestic worker. They made away with a large amount of money and fled to Cape Town.
After the president instructed the head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Major General Wally Rhoode to investigate the crime, the suspects were eventually traced to Cape Town. The domestic worker gave them away after being interrogated and her messages with the burglars were also examined. Fraser claimed the suspects were kidnapped and interrogated at the farm.
He also added that they returned the stolen money left with them as they had already changed it into rands at a Chinese money exchange in Cape Town. He further asserted that the suspects were paid off with R150,000 to keep silent and the domestic worker as well was paid off with the same amount. Though she was reportedly fired, she was reinstated and given another role at the farm. The names of the suspects identified by Arthur Fraser’s complaint are as follows:
- Immanuwela David
- Urbanus Shaumbwako
- Petrus Afrikaner
- Petrus Muhekeni
- Erkki Shikongo
How Much was Stolen at Phala Phala Farm?
According to Arthur Fraser’s sworn statement, about $4 million (R60 million) of undeclared foreign currency was stolen at Phala Phala Farm on or about February 9th, 2020. Even though the president admitted that a robbery took place at his farm on the day, he denied that such an amount was stolen. He later confirmed that the amount stolen from the farm was $580,000 (R9.5 million).
The money was gotten from the sales of 20 buffaloes which took place in December 2019. He stated that he sold the animals to Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa who paid in cash (but the sold animals have remained on the farm for over two years). However, after the DA leader, John Steenhuisen lodged a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) in December 2022, it was discovered that Mustafa did not declare the cash he brought into the country.
Meanwhile, the businessman claimed to have a copy of the declaration he completed upon landing at OR Tambo International Airport but never showed the document to journalists. Cyril Ramaphosa stated that Hazim Mustafa handed the $580,000 to Phala Phala Farm’s employee, Sylvester Ndlovu who then kept the money safe in the main building by stashing it under cushions in the president’s house on the farm.
On the contrary, there had been reports that more than the amount declared stolen by the president at the farm was actually taken. It was alleged that the investigators who interrogated the suspects disclosed that they took about 20 million to Namibia but didn’t clarify the currency. However, whether it was in $US or ZAR, the money taken is more than the amount declared by the president.
Even though Arthur Fraser alleged that the theft of around $4 million (R60 million) took place at Phala Phala Farm, the amount of cash stolen is still indeterminate.
Where the Stolen Money at the Farm Allegedly Came From
According to Independent Media’s Investigation team known as the Falcons, at least $4 million was stolen at Phala Phala Farm. They also revealed that more than $100 million was hidden at the farm and that about $140 million (approximately R2 billion according to 2020 exchange rates) was reportedly moved to Phala Phala Farm through Waterkloof Air Force Base. The money stayed there for over a month before the theft occurred in February 2020.
It was alleged that in July 2018, when President Ramaphosa visited Saudi Arabia, the country donated $20 million to the African National Congress which they referred to as Nelson Mandela‘s party. Saudi Arabia further donated another $20 million to the party later on and the donations were reportedly made on the condition that the SA government did not give any form of support to Qatar and also based on an expectation of an oil deal partnership between both countries.
Then Ramaphosa’s closest adviser, Bejani Chauke was reported to have received $10 million from Qatar through French-born, Phillippe Solomons who resides in Doha. The president was also said to have received $10 million from Equatorial Guinea’s Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue, who in return expected him to use his power to convince the courts in South Africa to rule in his favor in order to facilitate the return of his assets confiscated in France.
The Falcons further reported that Cyril Ramaphosa, according to a source received $40 million during his one-day trip to Egypt in late 2022. He then reportedly roped in two businessmen identified as Karl and Zahir to help him launder the money through dubious property deals after the Phala Phala scandal erupted.
The Outcome of the Phala Phala Scandal Investigations
In August 2022, several opposition parties in the parliament called for a motion to impeach the president over the Phala Phala scandal. Hence, an independent panel chaired by former Chief Justice, Sandile Ngcobo was set up by National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to investigate whether Cyril Ramaphosa has a case to answer in the Section 89 impeachment motion.
The acting Public Protector has cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing in the Phala Phala farm burglary scandal. pic.twitter.com/Tj9CfJr5Q3
— eNCA (@eNCA) March 11, 2023
The panel, on November 30th, 2022 reported that from their findings the president has an impeachment case to answer as he violated some constitutions. However, in the next month, votes on impeachment proceedings were carried out and 148 members of the ANC voted in favor of Ramaphosa out of 214 members that voted. Hence, the impeachment motion was ruled out.
Furthermore, the president was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding the Phala Phala robbery scandal by the acting public protector in March 2023. After completing a probe into the scandal in January 2023, the public protector released an official report which stated that the allegation that Cyril Ramaphosa had violated the Executive Ethics Code, as well as having a conflict of interest between his constitutional obligations and business interests is not substantiated.
The investigators said that no evidence showed that the president was actively involved in the day-to-day operations of Phala Phala Farm or Ntaba Nyoni. He was said to have played no role in the sales of the buffaloes to Hazim Mustafa. Also, based on the allegation of not reporting the crime, the public protector’s investigators said that their evidence showed that Ramaphosa reported the security breach to Wally Rhoode on February 10th, 2020, and the robbery on March 2nd, 2020.
The Former Presidential Protection Unit Head, Wally Rhoode, Took the Fall
On July 13th, 2022, Major General Wally Rhoode was removed as the head of the Presidential Protection unit and replaced by Lieutenant-General Samson Shitlabane. He was faulted on how he handled the theft at Phala Phala Farm as it appeared that the crime was not officially reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Based on the report released by the public protector in March 2023, Wally Rhoode and other members of the presidential protection service were said to have acted improperly in investigating the Phala Phala robbery. It was discovered that they neglected to ensure that a case docket was opened for the crime. And thus, their investigation into the case was inconsistent with the SAPS Act.
With Wally Rhoode faulted for carrying out an unofficial criminal investigation with his own investigation team, it’s still unclear whether further action would be recommended against him as he had already been sidelined as the presidential protection service head.