South Africa

SPIES R US

Why Ramaphosa (apparently) kept mum about multimillion-dollar robbery at his farm

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw)

The President feared creating panic, so kept the robbery quiet, say sources close to him.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, former spy boss Arthur Fraser and a bodyguard stepped into the police station on Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, in Johannesburg and said he wanted to open a criminal case. 

The police station is one of the best in Johannesburg, and Fraser was quickly attended to as he laid a criminal complaint against President Cyril Ramaphosa for holding and then being robbed of almost $4-million in cash at his Limpopo farm. 

Fraser included a flash drive of video and other evidence and submitted his already-typed charge sheet and a detailed affidavit to desk officers. 

They immediately notified the station commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sthembiso Ngubane, who called up his provincial bosses. He knew the docket that had just been opened was explosive. He called up his superiors at the SA Police Service (SAPS) provincial headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, and they told him to get the docket to them as soon as possible – dockets at local police stations are easy to access for the media.

Then the national police sent a top brass team to fetch it, and within hours, it was in Wachthuis, the police headquarters in Pretoria, out of the reach of the public.

At the same time, Fraser got his lawyer to issue a statement alerting the public to his charges.

The Presidency was forced to confirm the robbery by lunchtime on Thursday. The case set the stage for a mighty showdown between the former spy boss and the President. 

Cyril Ramaphosa confirms multimillion-rand heist at his Limpopo farm after Arthur Fraser laid charges against him

Presidency caught hopping

The Presidency was caught hopping by Fraser, who is used to setting cats among pigeons. He was the man who leaked the so-called spy tapes to former president Jacob Zuma, as Adriaan Basson and Pearlie Joubert reported here.

And in September 2021, it was Fraser, then serving as Correctional Services Commissioner under Ramaphosa, who set Zuma free on medical parole after he had been jailed on contempt of court charges for dodging the State Capture Commission.   

The Presidency confirmed Fraser’s charges but denied criminal complicity. Ramaphosa had been away attending the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa in February 2020 when the robbery at his farm took place.

Fraser’s affidavit first revealed that a domestic worker was allegedly acting in cahoots with criminals who had invaded his farm on the weekend he was in the Ethiopian capital. He submitted camera footage showing that the robbers had gained access to the farmhouse via a window just after 10.17pm on one of the nights Ramaphosa was in Addis. His home is in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, but a full-time staff takes care of the farm. 

The thieves made off with millions of US dollars, Fraser revealed. 

“The charges emanate from the theft of millions of US dollars (in excess of four million) concealed within the premises of the President’s Phala Phala farm in Waterberg, Limpopo by criminals who were colluding with his domestic worker,” said Fraser’s statement released on social media and to selected media (not Daily Maverick).

Ramaphosa is a keen breeder and trader in buffalo and Ankole cattle. His political nomenclature is “The Buffalo” and the money is believed to be related to the main purchase of a red oryx.

In February 2020, the value of the dollars was about R62-million; but a source close to the Presidency said Fraser’s amount was an exaggeration. Asked why the President was paid in cash and then held the money on the premises, the source, who did not want to be named, said the farm made the transaction on the weekend he was away. Usually, the farm manager would bank it quickly.

His farm manager would routinely bank the money on the next available working day, after clearing transactions with the President. The buyer paid to purchase the red oryx with forex notes, as wildlife industry sales are often paid for in cash. Scimitar or Sahara oryx became extinct in the wild. According to Wikipedia, after a careful rebreeding of remaining stock across the continent, there are about 400 now.

The Presidency is reconciling all sales over that weekend to assess the trades. 

Asked why Ramaphosa did not immediately notify the public of the robbery after it was reported to the police, the source said he did not want to panic the country or the farming community. 

Fraser also alleged that the robbery suspects had been kidnapped, interrogated and then paid for their silence. The confidante of the President denied that anybody had been roughed up, kidnapped or paid off.

Farms in South Africa are hotbeds for crime, and a presidential farm being robbed, despite top-notch security, would create panic, he said. Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma have had house robberies and did not release statements about those, said the source.

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said that the Presidential Protection Unit had immediately launched an investigation when the robbery was discovered. As pinned on social media in his affidavit, Fraser said, “the Security Camera footage referred to herein was also handed to me by Major General Rhoode’s team”. Wally Rhoode is the head of Ramaphosa’s Presidential Protection Unit. (News24’s Kyle Cowan wrote about him here.) 

The game plan

On the day after Fraser laid the charges, leading social media accounts of the RET faction of the ANC started sharing the next stage of their campaign. 

Because Fraser has laid a criminal complaint or charge, the accounts established a narrative that Ramaphosa should step aside and that Deputy President David Mabuza should finish his first term, which ends in 2023. 

The same gambit has been tried before against Ramaphosa by members of the RET faction and failed. The step-aside rule only kicks in once charges are investigated, and a charge sheet is drawn up and brought against a complainant by the National Prosecuting Authority. Ramaphosa committed no crime in not reporting his robbery.

But Fraser’s case will be embarrassing and destabilising to Ramaphosa in the short term. His wealth is an Achilles heel in a struggling country and for anybody to hold so much cash in foreign currency raises red flags for money laundering and tax evasion.

Daily Maverick requested comment from Mabuza and asked for an interview with Fraser, but these were not granted. Ramaphosa denied criminality. The Presidency said disinformation would not deter him from the fight against corruption. An aide said the President was facing a disinformation campaign. 

The other factor at play is that the final report of the State Capture Commission is scheduled to come out on 15 June. It will make findings on lengthy hearings which heard that billions of rands had been squandered or stolen in false-flag operations by the State Security Agency.

Much of this happened when Fraser was the spy boss and when he allegedly ran a principal-agent network that was a front for massive personal enrichment. Zuma also had a personal special projects unit in the intelligence agency, which became like a private army of intelligence operatives, the Zondo Commission heard. 

Fraser disputed the evidence before the Zondo Commission and applied to cross-examine witnesses, which Judge Raymond Zondo refused. He also laid perjury charges against those who implicated him. This week, Fraser said he wanted an update on the charges against the national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi, and others, as Suné Payne reported here.

Where will it end?

Ramaphosa’s aides say he will not allow this attempt at destabilisation to stop his reform drive from gaining momentum. The Investigating Directorate last week, for example, made progress on crucial State Capture cases, including at Transnet, where thieves stole the most public money in the period investigated by the Zondo Commission. (Read this piece by Jessica Bezuidenhout for an update.)

But Fraser is a powerful man with deep roots in the security establishment. He was part of South Africa’s National Security Council. Asked about Fraser’s motivation, the source said the President did not know. Fraser, he said, had open access to Ramaphosa and could easily have reached out to state his concerns about the cash that the robbers stole. 

Fraser’s complaint, meanwhile, says the cash at the Limpopo farm raises concerns of money laundering and corruption.

For their part, the police say a case of money laundering, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping has been registered. “All that is being said and alleged is the subject of that investigation. As such, the SAPS won’t comment further on this matter and just like in any other case the SAPS won’t give a blow by blow account of the progress of the investigation,” police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe said. DM

Additional reporting by Victoria O’ Regan

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  • Personally, RET trying to hobble President Ramaphosa makes me support him all the more.

    Stay the course and keep rattling those corrupt thieves mr president, history will thank you for it.

    • If this money, foreign currency, was really hidden is side furniture in the house, Ricky, me thinks you are missing the point, no?

      • although it still has to play out fully, sadly for South Africa it is looking very much like you’re bang on the money (couch). 🙁

  • I’m curious. Was Frasier implicated of a crime in the Zondo report? If he was, why no criminal charges? That would put this stunt in a different light!

  • Stinks of “I want a deal for any Zondo prosecutions” I have information on everyone. Or this is how Oligarch Cyril makes money or launders money. You decide.

  • Hmm Mr Fraser, allow me to ask you some questions sir. I am asking you on the basis that he who alleges must prove.
    1) You say the President failed to report and thus concealed criminal acts. The Presidency statement contains details of how and to whom the theft was reported to the presidential security detail and the video evidence handed over. Who is telling the truth here?
    2) You state that the presence of $4million cash raises a suspicion of tax evasion money laundering etc. The presidency says, and other sources confirm that cash sales are common for wild life sales and that the funds were kept over the weekend to be banked on the next business day. Unless you have other evidence to this how does this become money laundering/tax evasion etc?
    3) For what reason did Major General Rhoode of the Presidential Security hand this evidence including the video over to you.
    4)When was this handed over to you and did you upon receipt of this evidence of allegedly concealed crimes rush to Rosebank SAP to ensure justice be done.? Or did you sit on this information for a while and for what reason?
    Just wondering

  • If the robbery occurred in 2020, why does Fraser wait over 2 years to declare something suspicious about it and conveniently right before a major ANC conference? I’m certainly no fan of Ramaphosa but this is so obviously a ploy by the RET faction. And if the RET faction is all about personal enrichment at the taxpayer’s expense, perhaps it is time for the news media to start scrutinising Fraser’s wealth and finances (if they haven’t done so already) since he is clearly their obedient little lapdog. Follow the money.

  • Its obvious to any moron, what Arthur Fraser is trying to do. The Rhett faction will stop at nothing to get anyone of their people into a position of power to stop these investigations of corruption. Just by their actions you can see which faction they are from. This is why SA is in such a mess, ANC spend every hour of every day plotting each others downfall, or assonating each other for positions. Its Hardcore for an educated population to accept.

  • If disinformation is not deterring the president’s fight against corruption, then what is? It’s taking so long to bring the culprits to book!

  • Seems like politically connected persons only lay charges against others where there is some sort of political gain they can make out of the allegations. They never seem to feel a moral obligation to run in their “mates” for wrong doing.

  • Fraser is an out and out Zuma man, and his actions in over-ruling a professional and legally constituted Parole Committee’s decision to deny Zuma parole and to free Zuma is adequate proof of this.
    Now that Zuma is running out of legal options and doors are closing on his constant stalingrad attempts to avoid justice, one of his loyal subjects, suddenly, steps up and opens another door to distract attention away from Zuma, and make Ramaphosa the centre of the news universe. Timing is everything, Zuma’s RET gang have been sitting on this information, waiting for the right time to release it to the public, and Fraser, his loyal subject, was the chosen one because of the positions he held, especially the Secret Service. I wonder if those behind this move realise they have just hammered another nail into the coffin the ANC is slowly sliding into.

    • They do not care about the ANC or anything/anyone else bar themselves. These kind of people will throw their own family under the bus to save their own skins.

  • What’s the bet some BIG names are going to be arrested soon, and this is a pre-emptive strike to go “oh look we opened a criminal case against CR and now he is attack us!” We are the victims here!

  • Even if cash transactions are normal when trading in game, accepting US dollar notes is a contravention of South Africa’s exchange control regulations. And was the income declared to SARS? CR has a problem here, and concealing a crime is not it.

  • Makes no sense on several levels. Where in a house do you “conceal” $4 million? Under your bed? In the deep freezer? Depending on the notes in the pile, it is a bakkie full. Plus: what does a domestic servant do with $4 million in hard cash ? Wheelbarrow it to the local bank?

    Its like being handed the Mona Lisa on a street corner. You won’t know what to do with it.

    Something smells here. Like fish.

  • Thank you Daily Maverick Team. Fraser’s reporting, time wise is super suspicious and it immediately warrants a deeper look at other things happening around Fraser and the going’s on at the time. It is also totally suspicious that the president has a wad of forex however Thank you for being the cynic, who delves deeper before ‘reporting’ the news, because if new is just my word against yours, is that news? No it is hearsay and other publications have not realized this.

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