South Africa


Ramaphosa robbery: The kryptonite that could badly hurt the president and the ANC

Ramaphosa robbery: The kryptonite that could badly hurt the president and the ANC
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw) | Unsplash / Giorgio Trovato

With more information now coming into the public domain about how a large quantity of cash (US$) was stolen in early February 2020 from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s game farm Phala Phala, near Bela-Bela in Limpopo, and his failure to report this to the public, it is now realistically possible that this could weaken him in a very critical way and, in the process, significantly alter the course of our democracy. 

It is the worst public image crisis since Ramaphosa returned to formal politics as deputy leader of the ANC at the 2012 Mangaung conference. Unless this is handled correctly, it can potentially derail his stated ANC renewal agenda, with serious repercussions for the ruling party’s prospects of retaining power after the 2024 national elections.

It should also not be forgotten that the first public source of these claims, the former head of the State Security Agency Arthur Fraser is, to put it bluntly, not a man who can be trusted. He faces serious allegations and there is zero doubt that he is stoking this fire solely for his political agenda of helping RET return to full control of the ANC and thus, South Africa, especially its security cluster. 

Any claim that Fraser is doing this for the good of the country can be safely ignored. But Fraser is not the only source of these claims. 

Ramaphosa’s stolen millions: the Namibian connection

A report by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, and published by this publication, strongly suggests that Ramaphosa may have a serious case to answer, and that this could damage both him and the ANC.

Last week the Presidency confirmed Fraser’s claim that foreign currency had been stolen from his farm in Limpopo, and that he had not reported to the public. The new presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya denied that it was an amount of $4-million, saying that that was an exaggeration.

On Sunday both the Sunday Times and the City Press newspapers carried accounts gleaned from Fraser’s criminal complaint against Ramaphosa. 

In his version, he appears to state that US dollars were kept in a couch, that it was stolen by four Namibian nationals – one of whom was in a relationship with a domestic worker on the farm – and a single South African citizen. 

Fraser goes on to claim that people assigned to fix the problem, some of them crime intelligence members controlled by Ramaphosa’s head of security detail, Major General Wally Rhoode, eventually found the people who had stolen the money, and interrogated them, presumably illegally.

He goes on to claim that Ramaphosa even enlisted the help of Namibian President Hage Geingob after a suspect fled there.

Strangely, Fraser also claims that Ramaphosa paid money to the thieves and the domestic worker, presumably in order to ensure that this entire affair was kept secret.

As is well known, evidence was presented to the Zondo Commission that Fraser committed criminal acts while running the State Security Agency (SSA). As Ferial Haffajee has pointed out, the Zondo Commission report on the SSA is likely to be published soon.

Fraser and his attorney Eric Mabuza have ignored requests from broadcasters for interviews, except for apparently talking to IOL’s Mzilikazi wa Afrika. Their claims have not yet been interrogated in any public way.

However, amaBhungane’s set of facts that was published in Daily Maverick late on Saturday, 4 June, appears to bolster much of what Fraser has claimed.

They spoke to a separate source at Ramaphosa’s farm who appeared to confirm that a woman was kept in a room for two days, against her will, while being questioned by people who appear to be police officers. And that Namibian authorities actually became aware of this robbery first, and that journalists in that country were aware of someone with a large amount of cash from this theft from as early as June 2020.

They also report that Namibian authorities tried to pursue a request for assistance to discover what happened, but that South African authorities did not cooperate in any meaningful way.

In some ways, the most damaging aspect for Ramaphosa may be in some of these details.

Ramaphosa pleads innocence, says charges laid against him are politically motivated

Is it true that US dollars were stashed in a couch, and why? Why was cash being kept on the farm in the first place? Was this revenue reported to SARS? Was the Reserve Bank informed about both the transaction that resulted in the payment of these dollars, and when? Were they legally obtained?

Another damaging detail, as confirmed by the Presidency, is that Ramaphosa is not actually sure how much money was taken.

It looks almost like a mafia movie, where cash is kept in furniture, where there is so much of it that it can be wasted, tossed away as if of no importance.

At a time when the financial pain felt by millions of our people is so acute, that there is evidence that many children are at risk of starving.

And of course, there is the other issue, common to so many other political scandals – what did the President know, and when did he know it?

Politically, perhaps the real power of this issue lies in the fact that up until this point, an important aspect of Ramaphosa’s political power lay in the fact that he was the most popular politician in the country.

This popularity appeared to rest on perhaps two main elements; that he was not corrupt (or at least, not as corrupt as “the others”), and that there was “no one else” who could lead the country at this moment.

The perception that he was not corrupt was in a way his superpower: it gave him the moral authority to introduce changes to the ANC, perhaps the most important of which was the NEC’s “step aside” resolution (which followed the earlier resolution at Nasrec in 2017).

Perhaps even more important than that was that it was this perception of being “clean”, and his popularity, which meant his leadership was vital to the ANC as the ruling party is shedding support alarmingly fast.

The fact that the Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and this weekend Limpopo provinces of the ANC have all publicly stated their support for his second term as ANC leader is strongly taking this into consideration.

In short, perhaps the major reason people in the ANC support Ramaphosa is because they need him to win elections.

Now, this superpower may have been penetrated, the kryptonite of these claims may well have a permanent effect.

Of course, Ramaphosa is very much aware of this.

The fact that Magwenya was appointed presidential spokesperson just a day before these claims emerged may suggest that he knew what was coming.

Magwenya has started the response by asking why, if Fraser was a part of the security cluster in 2020, did he not raise this with Ramaphosa then, but is only doing so now? Of course, this points to the political motive.

This may work against Fraser. But it won’t work against the amaBhungane report.

This entire issue also casts a light on the role of people in our intelligence services in our politics. When Ramaphosa took over the Presidency in 2018, he appointed Fraser Correctional Services Commissioner despite the strong evidence in the public domain that he was corrupt.

The Principal Agent Network (PAN) Dossier, Part 1: Zuma and Mahlobo knew about Arthur Fraser’s rogue intelligence programme

Scorpio: SA’s spy boss implicated in massive tender fraud at Prasa

Now, it may be a good time that Ramaphosa took Fraser’s threats that he would reveal information about our politicians very seriously.

In the Sunday Times, Makhudu Sefara has written an important piece about how presidents are often forced to “manage” spy bosses, and suggests that this may also explain why David Mahlobo has been retained as a Deputy Minister, despite his damaging role as State Security Minister during the Zuma era.

It is now guaranteed that Ramaphosa’s critics and opponents will line up to use this scandal in the making against him.

The RET faction in the ANC will claim that he is not fit to be in the Presidency, that he must “step aside”. There will be whispering campaigns and, possibly, a massive, energised and deliberate social media strategy to say that he must go. This will attack not just him, but his supporters and journalists perceived to be not critical enough of Ramaphosa; they will say anyone who criticised Zuma should now also demand Ramaphosa’s removal.

His supporters will argue that there is no other credible leader of the ANC, and that a big difference between Zuma and Ramaphosa is the people appointed to head institutions. That there can be no comparison between someone like Shamila Batohi and someone like Menzi Simelane at the NPA, or even between Judge Raymond Zondo as Chief Justice and Judge Mogoeng Mogoeng.

In the middle of all of this, it has already been seen, truth has become a major casualty. It may become almost impossible to know what happened, and when. It will also weaken any efforts to ensure our criminal justice system is actually independent.

However, while our criminal justice system and Ramaphosa may be important casualties in this, there is another with much to lose.

It may well turn out that the biggest loser in all of this is not Ramaphosa, but in fact the ANC. Its claims to be in a process of “renewal”, or change, or reform, or “self-correction” are surely going to be dealt a massive blow by this.

It has become public that it is led by someone who lost money but is so rich they don’t know how much, and can’t explain why it was kept as cash.

If the ANC loses Ramaphosa, or if his image is seriously tarnished, it may well find that it has no remaining leaders to be seen as credible by voters, come 2024. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    The anc supporters (probably not the RET right-wingers) who are highly embarrassed by Ramaphosa’s reported leap-into-the-cesspool have two choices in the next elections.

    Choice #1/ Continue to support the anc cadaver and thereby put an RET president into power. Not the best result they are looking for. Or…

    Choice #2/. Grab the bull by the horns, do some serious thinking on what sort of future they want for their children, support, AND VOTE FOR, the most efficient liberal Democratic Party in SA. It will take some courage, but will give them equal satisfaction. They will have a great story to tell their grandkids!

    🇿🇦 🔵

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      Dream on ..

      • Malcolm Mitchell says:

        I agree with the comment “dream on”. At the age of 86 years and with postgraduate qualifications in Political Science, as well as having supported the DA and its forebears since its inception, and also having served as a DAand PFP election agent, I consider the present DA hierarchy as being very naïve in their thinking and nowhere near the likes of the late Helen Suzman and Van Zyl Slabbert in their political competence. All they are doing is hastening a RET led ANC government. Whilst I feel it will never occur the best solution would be a coalition between the DA and its like, and the Ramaphosa rump of the ANC – but then pigs might also also fly!!

        • Carol Green says:

          I agree with your analysis of the DA. I believe the only hope to save SA lies in happenings of things like Songezo Zibi’s call to the professional class to get involved in politics. Apart from a few decent politicians, most of the current lot are irredeemable.

          • Roelf Pretorius says:

            How about considering to vote for an independent candidate? Such person would be far easier to replace at the next election if he/she does not perform acceptably.

            Or what about ActionSA?

    • Dave Reynell says:

      Or emigrate.

  • Craig B says:

    Ramaphosa didn’t follow the correct prescripts for eliminating corruption. He also doesn’t follow the well worn prescripts for economic prosperity. Everything we experience of government is concocted policy unique to the ANC.
    Mandela and Mbeki did, but unfortunately the get rich quick scheme of BEE and high level government jobs got the better of them. The position not the output became the goal in and of itself.

  • Trevor Pope says:

    Are there any honest, competent members of the ANC left? The ANC is likely to become so consumed with their internal battles, that there will be no time left to govern the country. Perhaps that is a good thing…

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      The anc has been battling within itself to get a feeding opportunity at the trough ever since 1994. They are only interested in ruling SA. Governing has never been part of their plan.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    This incident has deflected all news to this incident. Coincidentally it is just before the anniversary of the KZN RET July riots. What is the next exposure by RET?

  • Pall Catt says:

    The fact that Arthur Fraser has held on to this information for over 2 years means he had obviously planned to use it as leverage to blackmail the president in the furtherance of Fraser’s criminal endeavours or avoidance of prosecution. Surely then the fact that he has now finally leaked the information must suggest that Ramaphosa stood firm against Fraser’s attempts to blackmail him? So the leaking of this information may well be a feather in Ramaphosa’s cap?

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I wonder; it seems to me that the ANC is so divided into factions, with the Ramaphosa faction so entrenched, that it will not make too much difference inside the ANC. And for the moment that is the only aspect that really matters.

    What it is going to do to the ANC in the 2024 election is of course another matter. But with these divisions they already seem to be on their way out, and this will just be another nail in the coffin. The biggest nail however is the divisions themselves, which the public does not like. They already showed it in their rejection of COPE from 2009 to 2014, for very much exactly the same reason. And COPE seems to have been a prelude to what will happen to the ANC, if you ask me.

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