YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
It’s entrapment, says Presidency about Ramaphosa farm robbery. Then it clammed up
We have assessed the Phala Phala story for you here, and also include your usual round-up of inspiring and happy stories from Daily Maverick.
Hundreds of Daily Maverick readers have questions for President Cyril Ramaphosa about the 2020 burglary at his Phala Phala farm. We try to answer some of them.
Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said the police are investigating entrapment charges in relation to the burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo in 2020. Then he clammed up and said the Presidency would not answer questions about the theft. Queenin Masuabi reported on Gungubele’s meeting with editors here.
Despite throwing a dragnet around the issue, the questions mount. The Presidency appears to be banking on short news cycles keeping it out of the public eye, but the questions we received showed that it remains a burning issue. When we asked you for your questions relating to the burglary, they poured in by the hundreds. An analysis shows the public want answers, but Ramaphosa has said he will only answer once ‘due process’ has run its course. By this he means the investigation by the Hawks into the incident. The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has also clammed up and will not report on any progress. On Wednesday, 10 August, News24 reported that the stolen amount was closer to R9-million in 2020 and that it had been the proceeds from the sale of a single buffalo.
The word cloud below shows your main areas of concern.
“How did the millions get to the farm? Did these monies belong to Ramaphosa? Where did the money come from? Why was it there? Why was it cash if it was a business transaction?”
These questions were repeated by most readers, showing that the public needs basic information. When we first reported this story on 1 June, the Presidency said the questions would be answered in days. That didn’t happen. Once former spymaster Arthur Fraser’s complaint docket at Rosebank police station was moved to the Hawks, Ramaphosa refused to answer. It has been 70 days since that complaint was made.
The second major theme that emerges from reader questions is fairness. Here’s one sample of this theme:
“Apparently a crime was committed on the President’s farm. Why was the money kept in the house and not the bank. Was Sars (South African Revenue Service) and the SA Reserve Bank made aware? You would have expected the President to comment about the exact amount found on the farm. You would have expected him to open a criminal case with the police. Is the President hiding something?”
Sars is on a major tax collection and tax morality drive in order to fund the needs of struggling South Africans, to bolster the economy and pay off Eskom’s debt so that energy reforms can kick into gear. The silence about the farm burglary has raised many questions about whether tax was paid. Sars cannot divulge the tax affairs of individuals but Corruption Watch, among others, have said that in this case, the President should pierce his own veil of confidentiality and show whether tax was paid on the game sales. The Presidency has maintained that the money came from game sales at Phala Phala, but it’s worth noting that this explanation is now being downplayed.
Here’s a sample of tax questions:
“Did he (Ramaphosa) pay tax on the proceeding of stock sale? How did he (Ramaphosa) earn it? Can he show invoices of the deals and did he pay tax? What is the position of Sars in this matter? Was the income declared to Sars? Did he declare the income for purposes of income tax? Was the money declared to Sars, and if not, why not? Did the President charge VAT on his trading activities and did he pay the VAT over to Sars?”
There is a banking culture in South Africa and various laws discourage holding cash because it is a red flag for money laundering and corruption.
“The question is: why was the money kept in the house and not the bank?” many readers asked. If the other factor Ramaphosa is banking on to get through this scandal is his popularity, this is a risky strategy. While he enjoys the highest trust and popularity levels of all political leaders, the so-called Farmgate issue could cost him. “How can you in good conscience stash millions in a couch, while people in this country struggle to put food on the table?”
The allegation that the thieves found the cash sewn into the bottom of a sofa has gathered a head of steam and caught the public’s attention. The ANC’s RET faction has even put images of a couch bottom stuffed with dollars on social media. It has become a meme.
“How can Cyril (Ramaphosa) morally, let alone legally, justify such an amount of cash be stashed in one of his homes? If discovered, as has now happened, many citizens will deem him to be guilty of ‘something’ until an investigation tells us otherwise. Serious damage to his rep. Don’t know if he will survive re-election (as ANC president) in December,” commented one reader.
And another: “Who is this man that we wanted to trust? Living the high life while majority of South Africans battle to buy a list (loaf) of bread. Shame on him!”
Only three questions were sympathetic to Ramaphosa. It looks like he still has a nominal lead ahead of the ANC elective conference in December, but outside the party, the silence from the leader appears to have taken a toll on that lead.
Here are some specific answers to your questions.
If it is shown that millions of US dollars were in fact concealed at his residence, would this have contravened exchange control/SA Reserve Bank regulations?
We asked Karam Singh, the director of Corruption Watch. Here’s what he said.
Was it Fica-compliant?
We don’t know. The Financial Intelligence Centre is a very opaque institution.
Why was the transaction done in US-dollar cash?
The President’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said this is how the game industry works. Read Onke Ngcuka’s story on the game industry here.
Please clarify if the money concerned was in rands or US dollars?
The Presidency has confirmed that it was US dollars.
What is Arthur Fraser’s motive? When did he know about the theft?
We have tried numerous times to interview Mr Fraser, but he has declined through his lawyer. We’ll keep trying.
Which game was sold?
Onke Ngcuka gives you the ins and outs of game sales above. Mostly ankole cattle, buffalo and perhaps a red oryx, as far as we can tell.
Now for your round-up of uplifting news articles.
Recently we applauded:
The Equality Court for sending a strong message about the consequences of spreading hatred and discrimination on social media, after a five-year hate speech case was won by Chinese South African communities.
Otherwise we were happily diverted by:
The article by Maverick Life’s Malibongwe Tylio on Van Life, showcasing the beauty of living and travelling South Africa in a mobile home. South Africans share their experiences (and tips for those looking to do the same) of swapping brick-and-mortar homes for life on the road.
We took inspiration from:
Writer and photojournalist Ihsaan Haffejee, who tells us a beautiful storyabout a Soweto music school, Buskaid, which lifts children from despair to soaring performances.
Meanwhile, at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games we were so proud and found much excitement in South Africa’s wins and gold medallists:
- Lara van Niekerk became the first South African athlete to win two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games;
- ‘It’s nice to cry on the podium, rather than next to the pool’ – Tatjana Schoenmaker, Chad le Clos and Kaylene Corbett made it a full set of medals for Team South Africa in the pool;
- ‘If it were not for judo, I would probably have dropped out of school,’ says SA’s latest gold medal winner, Michaela Whitebooi. DM
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