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PHALA PHALA SCANDAL

Despite Arthur Fraser’s evidence labelled as ‘hearsay’, the spymaster checkmated Ramaphosa

Despite Arthur Fraser’s evidence labelled as ‘hearsay’, the spymaster checkmated Ramaphosa
From left: Arthur Fraser. (Photo: Gallo Images / City Press / Khaya Ngwenya) | President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Getty Images / Dwayne Senior)

Judge Sandile Ngcobo says the spy boss’s evidence is ‘hearsay’, but still makes damning findings. President Ramaphosa disputes Phala Phala alleged video evidence. ‘That’s not my farm,’ he says.

The impeachment inquiry panel into whether President Cyril Ramaphosa violated his oath of office has laid into former spy boss Arthur Fraser.

Judge Sandile Ngcobo labelled Fraser’s complaint about the concealment and theft of forex from the President’s Phala Phala farm as “hearsay evidence”.

“While Mr Fraser has not disclosed the source of his information, given the seriousness of the allegations he is making and potential harm they can cause if untrue, we assume that at an appropriate forum and when the need arises, he will, when called upon to do so, disclose the source or sources of his information,” said Ngcobo.

His report found that Ramaphosa had seriously violated the Constitution, South Africa’s anti-corruption law, had acted inconsistently with his office and exposed himself to a conflict of interest by continuing to conduct his game farm business.

Fraser’s bombshell

On 1 June 2022, Fraser laid a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa for alleged forex abuses and other allegedly criminal conduct. He walked into the Rosebank police station, laid the complaint and released his arsenal.

The explosion has now rocked the country. But what is the veracity of the information he has put into the public domain?

Nobody knows, the judge found.

“We think the proper approach is for us to be satisfied that there is some other independent information which tends to support the hearsay evidence complained of,” the report says.

“While Mr Fraser’s statements provide information that may help to verify the truthfulness or otherwise of his allegations, the present process does not permit the panel to investigate these matters. This, of course, does not mean that we must blindly accept the information contained in Mr Fraser’s statements in the hope that it may, and probably will, be verified,” says the report.

Then it reveals the balancing act it had to perform. The judge continues: “Nor does it mean these allegations must be ignored. Fairness dictates otherwise.”

In the end, the panel did not make any findings on Fraser’s criminal complaints, but instead made findings on the revelations that Ramaphosa made to it.

The panel spent page after page knocking Ramaphosa’s version as improbable and questionable.

A Sudanese businessman goes shopping for buffalo

“[A Sudanese businessman] ‘Mr Hazim’ had walked into the farm on Christmas Day of 2019, carrying at least an amount of US$580,000 in cash. The purpose of the visit was to view animals. In his version, Mr Hazim came to the farm without any prior arrangement to come and view the animals.

“How did Mr Hazim know there were buffaloes for sale at the farm? Was the sale advertised? There are further difficulties with the large amount of cash he was carrying. And if he came to the farm without prior arrangement, how did he know [exactly what] the purchase price would be?”

What raised the judge’s ire was that Mr Hazim never fetched his buffalo. It’s an eyebrow-raising story, but it’s not Fraser’s version, which was hardly interrogated.

Phala Phala updates

Everything we know so far

Understand the report

Analysis of what it means

Timeline of events

See how events unfolded

What is ‘paid work’? 

Instead, it’s the President’s own version which tripped him up. He told the judge that there was no conflict of interest because while he runs his game business, he does not benefit from it.

“We think that the submission by the President has adopted a narrow view of the words ‘paid work’. The words ‘paid work’ mean work for financial gain or reward whether as employees or self-employed,” the report found.

The judge docked Ramaphosa for this, finding that there was a case to be forwarded to a parliamentary impeachment panel.

Ramaphosa said that many videos submitted as part of complaints made by three political parties to the Speaker of Parliament were, in fact, not of Phala Phala. But in an era where even observable truth seems not to matter, the panel hardly interrogated this.

Fraser’s game clarified

The master spymaster, Fraser, had done his work. He played a chess game and checkmated the President, who cooked his own goose. This is how spies work: create chaos and the conditions for self-implication.

Why Fraser did this has become clear as daylight.

The game clarified on Thursday as November turned to December. While Ramaphosa stood exposed by the panel’s report, the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction of the party took back the ANC from the reformists.

With both presidential candidates — Ramaphosa and Dr Zweli Mkhize — now wounded, the person suddenly on top of the pile is acting secretary-general Paul Mashatile. He has played both the renewal and RET factions of the party and is probably on both slates.

As the ANC NEC released its candidates, the game was clarified further. All the RET big guns are back. The State Capture majordomo Malusi Gigaba is back, in second place, and Andile Lungisa is in 10th place. Also on the nomination list are Bathabile Dlamini (15), David Mahlobo (19), Faith Muthambi (33), Nomvula Mokonyane (81 — also in the top six nomination list) and Mkhize (89 — also in the top six nomination list). These are primarily electable positions which put the RET back in the driving seat. There are others too.

In 2007, Fraser was instrumental in former president Jacob Zuma’s election as ANC president at Polokwane. He is a man who has been enriched by his position in the ANC and in the Zuma faction of the ANC, as the State Capture Commission heard and other reports have revealed.  

Fraser alleged that between $4-million and $5-million was hidden at Phala Phala. The President said the amount stolen was $580,000. Judge Ngcobo’s panel says 11 ongoing Phala Phala investigations have yet to make their findings.

“We think that the President has a case to answer on the origin of the foreign currency that was stolen, as well as the underlying transaction for it.”

That may well be true. But so does Fraser. In June, another judge said Fraser had many billion-dollar questions hanging about his head.

State Capture Commission chairperson Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said Fraser and his spy bosses at the State Security Agency should be investigated for the looting of at least a billion rand.  This is roughly R910-million more than the highest amount Fraser alleged was found in Ramaphosa’s sofa and it is of public funds rather than the concealment of private funds. (See Marianne Thamm’s report here.)

The high-rolling Fraser also scored dodgy security contracts worth R90-million, Scorpio reported here.

Fraser has been allowed to get away scot-free on allegations that he made a fat buck off the state, while Ramaphosa has faced the law. Why is this?

Fraser is regarded as uber-powerful and the puppet master of the RET faction. Law enforcement won’t touch him with a bargepole. He has enormous perceived power because of his “files” — his intelligence on anybody who tries to investigate him.

The finding of the Section 89 inquiry by Judge Ngcobo and his two fellow panellists has been received with glee by patronage networks in the ANC, the EFF and the ATM, the party regarded as a satellite of the ANC-RET.

While Ramaphosa has a case to answer, what is at stake is a battle between reform and the return of rent extraction or State Capture.

It’s worth remembering that in 2011, Ngcobo’s term was extended by Zuma amid questions from the legal community. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Just save everyone time and send every damned one of them to jail on the moon and throw away the key (and add Putin to the list; they deserve eachother)

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    “While Ramaphosa has a case to answer, what is at stake is a battle between reform and the return of rent extraction or State Capture”
    And to which side is the DA lending support? Go figure!!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      In the unbridled ‘lust’ for unchecked ‘power’ … it is not uncommon – especially in politics – for apparent ‘opponents’ to get into bed ! Madiba was one of the few politicians who understood this dilemma when he without any irony or ambiguity said … if the ANC does to you what the apartheid regime did, you must do to it what you did to the apartheid regime. What he may not have realised is that it could be done in the name of promoting ‘democracy’ – however you conceive it to be !

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      It is confusing when the choice is the devil or the deep blue sea!

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I am not a defender of Ramaphosa but how come that a gangster (Fraser) can make unproven (so far) claims that could take the country to the brink?

    • John Smythe says:

      It’s his swan song. He knows he has absolutely no future going forward. His only real hope is RET. He’s just a Zuma puppet who has no prospects after the next elections because the majority of the ANC are moderates who don’t need to RET to tumble the country into a state of complete chaos. And so hopefully, they take their brains with them to the upcoming conference and do the right thing to get rid of RET. Zuma, Fraser and all the others who thrive on turmoil.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    The restrictions placed on the independent investigating committee are such that the only conclusion they could possibly reach is that there is a bona fide case to answer.
    What a waste of both time and money?

  • James Francis says:

    “Fraser has been allowed to get away scot-free on allegations that he made a fat buck off the state, while Ramaphosa has faced the law. Why is this?”

    Also, the media and opposition gleefully followed this story and stopped focusing so much on the real crooks. I’m seriously considering moving my vote and money elsewhere.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    SA is once again on the very edge of the cliff due to the shenanigans of the misruling party and its multitude of obnoxious thieves. We are at the mercy of these vile vultures and hyenas aka state capturers and REThieves with Zuma as the mafia boss. What is particularly galling is that odious monsters like Fraser, who never have been called to account for SSA theft and illegal activities and have total impunity, now along with this multitude of thieves expect, demand justice and punishment according to the law – whilst they do all possible to disrespect, vilify and derail it when it doesn’t suit them. This is a fight between good and evil – whilst good is relative in this case, it is a whole lot better than the evil. Should these heartless and rapacious monsters come to power, SA is finished. They will pardon all the thieves, install them in government, hollow out all the chapter 9 institutions, impose the secrecy bill to stop the media etc and corruption/ impunity will operate on steroids. This is what is at stake!

    • Johan Buys says:

      Sergio: that scenario of the likes of Kopdoek and sisulu and the zumas and ace and mkhize and the other gangsters running wild will not be a problem for the wealthiest 1m south african taxpayers of any color. Because they will leave the country.

  • Cedric Richards says:

    Here is another aspect to all this. Why would anyone carry around suitcases full of cash? It’s massively inconvenient and an extreme security risk. It’s far easier to take out your phone, do the transaction and send a POP to the seller. The truth of the matter is, if it’s cash, its a dodgy deal. There are no if’s or but’s. In this digital age is it not time to limit cash transaction to say 20 or 50k. If that was in place during our ‘waisted years’, maybe they would not have been so waisted. Come on parliamentarians, do something about it.

  • Stuart Smith says:

    I would have thought that the panel would have determined the veracity of Fraser’s complaint as the first step in the enquiry, not base their conclusion on hearsay.

  • Stuart Hulley-Miller says:

    Thank you for this balanced report….. and bringing up the dot connections between Zuma, Frazer and (It’s worth remembering that in 2011, Ngcobo’s term was extended by Zuma amid questions from the legal community)

    We need to get real about two things:
    1. This country needs Cyril right now…. Not DD Mabuza, Arthur Frazer, the Zuma Clan, etc.
    2. If we destroy the vague semblance of order and democratic structure we have in SA at the moment, we will not replace it with better and the general public and country at large will be the losers and the tender types the winners and controllers.

    I am from Zim and in many respects what is going on here is a carbon copy in so far as a concentrated assault on the Zim judiciary is what gave Mugabe complete power…… this is what is happening to us now and what this is about……. think of who has run the narrative about this????

    By ‘real’ I mean take into account the context of where we live and what the reality of the systems and people that control us is….. not what we would like or know is right or wrong….. and also what we want the result to be as opposed to what it will be if Cyril goes.

    Also, I am a DA supporter but they are currently acting like blinkered buffoons.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Given how poorly Fraser ran his covert unit and the thefts that went on there, can we please not describe him as a “spymaster” 😉

  • virginia crawford says:

    So is that the trick: go to Rosebank police station and say, for example, that Zuma stole money and they investigate immediately? Let’s all go it.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Is this the trick: go to Rosebank police station and make allegations about politicians ( there’s enough realistic evidence) and an investigation begins immediately? Let’s all do it.

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