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Ramaphosa maintains silence on Phala Phala forex saga d...

South Africa

PARLIAMENT

Ramaphosa maintains silence on details of Phala Phala forex saga while scandal overshadows G7 visit

Illustrative image // President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | The sale of game, including the red oryx, has been at the centre of the robbery at the President’s Phala Phala wildlife farm in Limpopo. (Photo: Supplied)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has maintained his silence beyond citing ‘due process’ in five parliamentary replies to the opposition. But his arrival at the G7 Summit is under a cloud as German media raise the Phala Phala forex scandal.

As G7 leaders meeting at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, Tagesschau has reported on the lack of explanations, presidential political survival and balancing act in the saga that ex-spooks boss Arthur Fraser brought to the police earlier in June. The report headline, roughly translated as “Summit guest with a dearth of explanations”, details issues around the theft of $4-million stashed in couch cushions, which was officially reported to police for investigation.

“Since then South Africa asks: Why did the president keep secret the theft? Is it really about money laundering? (Ramaphosa) is anyway one of the richest South Africans. His private wealth is estimated at $450-million,” says the Tagesschau report. “Why were $4-million hidden – if it really was that much? Is it tax evasion?”

And while the G7 summit is set to focus on Ukraine as Russia’s war moves into its fifth month, Ramaphosa faces difficult questions at home – with mostly silence.

His parliamentary replies, which were published on Monday morning, echo the presidential mantra of silence on details, “due process” and a pledge of his cooperation that already emerged in his 10 June Budget Vote debate reply.

“I am ready to cooperate with any investigations on this matter and will answer whatever questions the investigators ask of me. The law must be allowed to take its course and due process needs to be followed,” ws Ramaphosa’s reply to DA leader John Steenhuisen, who had asked about the off-the-book probe in the farm forex saga.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know (and don’t know) so far

The same presidential reply was given to parliamentary questions on whether “the SA taxpayer footed any part of the bill for the remuneration, flights, accommodation and/or incidentals of the investigators’ travel to Namibia”, and whether Ramaphosa believed the circumstances of this matter amounted to a violation of his oath of office.

“I am ready to cooperate with any investigations on this matter and will answer whatever questions the investigators ask of me. The law must be allowed to take its course and due process needs to be followed,” was Ramaphosa’s response also to Steenhuisen’s question about whether the President had “used his official position as the president of the Republic to seek assistance from President HG Geingob of Namibia, with regard to the suspects who fled to Namibia following the break-in and theft at his Phala Phala farm…”

EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu got a little more to his parliamentary questions.

“I am ready to cooperate with any investigations on this matter and will answer whatever questions the investigators ask of me. The law must be allowed to take its course and due process needs to be followed. I have furthermore declared every gift provided me during the course of tenure as deputy president and president as required by law,” was Ramaphosa’s response.

Shivambu had asked “whether he ordinarily stores large amounts of money at his properties, other than his Phala Phala farm” alongside details about how much money in what currency was stored at Phala Phala and whether that was indeed the proceeds of cattle/game sales.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Mishandling of the Ramaphosa farm forex theft reflected in state accountability documents

Shivambu received the same reply to another question on the origin of the money, if it had not been from game sales, and whether Ramaphosa had “made any disclosure of the total amount of money stored on his farm in terms of the Executive Ethics Code” and alerted the South African Revenue Service. If not, why not?

And why did he not report the theft at the local police station, and whether he would still do so.

Shivambu would have asked the questions on disclosure because Parliament’s code of conduct requires not only behaviour in office in line with values such as honesty and integrity, but also declaration of financial interests, including sponsorships and directorships, alongside gifts valued at more than R1,500.

As Daily Maverick previously reported, neither Phala Phala nor rands-and-cents income from game or cattle sales are listed in publicly available disclosures.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Namibian police weigh in on Farmgate and deny doing ‘dirty work’ for Ramaphosa

These declarations, accessible on Parliament’s website for the years Ramaphosa was deputy president (2014 to 2018), include a lengthy list of properties and 100 shares each in what’s listed as cattle and game farms, Ntaba Nyoni Feedlot and Ntaba Nyoni Estates, the latter of which increased in value from R50,311,251 to R120,735,000, according to the declarations between 2014 and 2017. Also publicly declared is “deferred benefit” for the MRC trust, Kruinpark Retirement Village Trust and the Tshivhase Trust, according to Ramaphosa’s financial disclosures.

Relevant details may well be declared in the confidential section of the register that holds the address and size of private residential property held, and the financial interests of one’s spouse or life partner. But the confidential section of elected public office bearers’ disclosure is not publicly accessible, although an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act might change that.

Ramaphosa’s declarations as president made at the Union Buildings are not readily publicly available by, for example, being published on the Presidency website. The President is not an MP, according to Section 87 of the Constitution.

However, arrangements may be made to view these declarations, as former DA leader Mmusi Maimane did in November 2017 with the declarations of then president Jacob Zuma. According to Eyewitness News, Maimane said Zuma had not declared the controversial so-called security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead. Maimane’s Union Building site visit followed a presidential refusal to answer parliamentary questions on various payments Zuma was said to have received.

The final State Capture report is damning about Ramaphosa not speaking out against corruption, patronage and such, apparently in order not to publicly damage his governing ANC. But Ramaphosa “had nothing to lose by speaking out against what was happening”, according to the report.

The pressure on Ramaphosa is high – and increasing in the face of South Africa’s deteriorating socioeconomic circumstances and political fracturing across the body politic. The pressure will not go away, regardless of due process and silence. DM

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  • Such a disappointment. Washed up Cyril is just like the rest of the ANC, trying to defend the indefensible. And to think we fell for it. More the fool us.

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