PHALA PHALA SCANDAL
Despite Arthur Fraser’s evidence labelled as ‘hearsay’, the spymaster checkmated Ramaphosa
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.
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.
Everything we know so far
Analysis of what it means
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