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Sudanese businessman tells Sky News he is Ramaphosa’s buffalo buyer – but how does his story stack up?

Sudanese businessman tells Sky News he is Ramaphosa’s buffalo buyer – but how does his story stack up?
From left: Hazim Mustafa. (Photo: Supplied) | South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

The man who President Cyril Ramaphosa says bought 20 buffalo from his Phala Phala farm in late 2019 was named as one ‘Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim’. Now, a Sudanese businessman called Hazim Mustafa has told Sky News that he is the buyer in question. We compare his version of events with Ramaphosa’s.

Hazim Mustafa is a Sudanese millionaire who was identified by News24 in September as a possible candidate for the real identity of the “Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim” who allegedly paid $580,000 for 20 buffalo owned by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

At the time of the initial report, however, there was no confirmation from the Ramaphosa camp that Mustafa was indeed the mysterious businessman in question.

Now Mustafa has told Sky News that he did indeed pay $580,000 in cash for Phala Phala game in December 2019 – but that he had no idea that the animals, or the Phala Phala farm itself, were owned by Ramaphosa.

“I wasn’t aware it belonged to the president. I dealt with a broker – the one working on Phala Phala farm,” Mustafa is quoted as telling Sky News.

Ramaphosa’s version vs Mustafa’s version

To recap: Ramaphosa’s version of events, as contained in the submissions the President made to the independent Phala Phala panel, is as follows. He writes that on 25 December 2019,

“Mr Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, a citizen of Sudan (“Mr Hazim”), came to the farm to view buffaloes that were for sale. [Acting farm manager Sylvester] Ndlovu showed Mr Hazim the buffalos in Camp 6 and Mr Hazim identified those that he liked the look of. Mr Hazim made payment in cash in the sum of US$580,000 to Mr Ndlovu.”

Ramaphosa continues:

“Mr Ndlovu, upon receipt of the money, gave Mr Hazim an acknowledgement of receipt and informed him that he would inform me about what had transpired… After Mr Hazim had left Phala Phala, Mr Ndlovu took the money and locked it in the safe at the Bayeto Centre office.”

Some of the elements of this story earmarked by both the Phala Phala panel and commentators as strange or improbable were:

  • The lack of further details regarding “Hazim’s” identity, such as a passport number;
  • The idea that someone would do this kind of wildlife shopping on Christmas Day;
  • The idea that someone would be able to bring this quantity of cash dollars into South Africa;
  • The idea that someone would spend the equivalent of almost R9-million on buffalo which were subsequently not collected, as the game are still in place at Phala Phala.

Mustafa’s (unhelpfully brief) version to Sky News provides answers of some sort to the latter three issues.

He said that he was in Limpopo at that time “celebrating Christmas and his wife’s birthday”.

Hazim Mustafa

Sudanese millionaire Hazim Mustafa. (Photo: Twitter)

News24 previously reported that Mustafa’s wife is a South African woman originally from KwaZulu-Natal called Bianca O’Donoghue, so the idea that the couple might be in South Africa for Christmas and her birthday is not unfeasible.

As for the amount of cash Mustafa was travelling with: he claims he brought it into South Africa through OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg without any apparent trouble.

Read in Daily Maverick: “In the eye of the storm: Inside the report that might sink Cyril Ramaphosa

Mustafa said that he declared it at the airport but refused to show Sky News the relevant declaration forms, apparently on the basis of the ongoing legal processes around the matter.  

“$580,000 is nothing for a businessman like me. I don’t know what the big issue is,” Mustafa is reported to have said.

The question of why the buffalo were not transferred to the buyer, if indeed they were sold, was arguably one of the biggest questions shadowing Ramaphosa’s account.

Mustafa says there was nothing more sinister at work here than the Covid-19 pandemic which stymied global trade, and subsequent bureaucratic hold-ups.

“When we did the deal, they were supposed to prepare the animals for export. Then the Covid-19 lockdown happened and there was delay after delay after delay… It took too long, so I didn’t get my money back, but there is an understanding that I will be refunded,” the businessman told Sky News.

Questions remain

Although Mustafa’s account seems to offer some important corroboration of Ramaphosa’s basic story on the face of it, there are still important questions in need of answers.

Why, for instance, would Mustafa only supply his version of events at this stage, months after the scandal broke?

Most importantly, why did Ramaphosa’s camp not ask him to submit an affidavit to this effect to the Phala Phala inquiry? This question is particularly pressing given that Mustafa’s comments about “understanding” he will be refunded for the buffalo suggest that he must have been in touch with Phala Phala subsequent to the sale.  

Read in Daily Maverick: “Phala Phala panel report – information is not evidence, says President in ConCourt challenge to impeachment findings

Is it possible that Ramaphosa was simply squeamish about being publicly associated with a businessman who is reportedly closely linked to former Sudanese dictator Omar Al-Bashir, and whose business partner is reportedly being investigated for criminal espionage?

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

There may well be other skeletons in Mustafa’s closet. News24 reported that the businessman, president of Sudanese football team Al Merrikh SC, enjoys a life of opulence in Dubai – but that although he appears to have started off running a small printing business, “the true source of his wealth remains unclear at this stage”.

There is no suggestion at this point that Mustafa and Ramaphosa have any relationship – business or otherwise – extending beyond the sale of the buffalo. There are also no public records of Mustafa having any business interests in South Africa.

If Ramaphosa just wanted to conceal his ties, however tenuous, to a potentially questionable businessman, it was a gamble which has backfired catastrophically.

In a way, Mustafa’s account is irrelevant

As intriguing as the Mustafa development is, in technical terms it cannot help Ramaphosa very much.

This is because the basis for the Phala Phala panel recommending the full parliamentary impeachment process was not the fundamental implausibility of the buffalo story, but the circumstances surrounding it.

The panel found that Ramaphosa had a case to answer regarding:

  • Whether his Phala Phala farming constituted impermissible “paid work” undertaken while President;
  • Whether he violated anti-corruption laws by not reporting the theft of money from Phala Phala to the Hawks;
  • Whether he mis-used his official Presidential Protection Unit by tasking it with investigating a theft on his private property; and
  • Whether he acted wrongly in reporting the theft to his head bodyguard to investigate rather than the police.

What Hazim Mustafa told Sky News does not help resolve any one of those four issues.

But if it could be confirmed to be true, what Mustafa’s version might do is to restore some measure of public trust in Ramaphosa and the basics of his Phala Phala story. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    This whole thing is turning into a storm in a teacup. The villainy of Arthur Fraser and those who associate with him are orders of magnitude greater than Phala Phala’s accusations. Ramaphosa might not have toed the line as he should have, but this whole thing is distracting from far bigger problems in our country. It’s time for media to rally behind Ramaphosa and at least expose Fraser and co’s real intentions and then contextualise his “wrong doings” accordingly.

  • Rob Martin says:

    I think it is relevant. It’s not like Cyril was involved with the day to day running of the farm. It’s like saying that if some gold was stolen from an Anglo gold mine and not reported then Openheimer in London must face the law!! Fraser (on behalf of the RET faction) has trumped up a story to eliminate Ramaphosa before the ANC conference. It may well work with the help of Mr Matric from the DA and Mr Rolex of the EFF.

  • Fritz Eckl says:

    What a story,
    hard believe.
    I am not excusing Ramaphosa
    and the way he handled the whole affair so far…,
    but, looking at the Zuma-Fraser Mafia, I rather have Cyril as a President.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    “The panel found that Ramaphosa had a case to answer regarding:

    Whether his Phala Phala farming constituted impermissible “paid work” undertaken while President;
    Whether he violated anti-corruption laws by not reporting the theft of money from Phala Phala to the Hawks;
    Whether he mis-used his official Presidential Protection Unit by tasking it with investigating a theft on his private property; and
    Whether he acted wrongly in reporting the theft to his head bodyguard to investigate rather than the police.”
    Ramaphosa’s review application deals with this list.
    If the story is true there is absolutely nothing left in the complaint.

  • Jacqui Pember says:

    My gut feel says Ramaphosa hasn’t done anything to warrant his exit as President of this country. In comparison to what Zuma has done to us all, this whole thing pales into complete insignificance and is being used as a weapon against the President for tightening up the hatches.

    • Peter Mansfield says:

      So Zuma is now our moral gold standard?

      • Tana Speck says:

        I’m surprised the man has not told us all to „shove it“ and go and sit peacefully on his farm and watch the walls come tumbling down.

    • John Smythe says:

      I don’t think that’s what Jacqui is saying. It’s that Zuma’s reign of this country is way more serious than one Fraser utterance against the current president. Ramaphosa is no angel. But he’s definitely one compared to the devil that brought SA to its knees.

  • Johan Buys says:

    “ As intriguing as the Mustafa development is, in technical terms it cannot help Ramaphosa very much.”. This is a VERY weird statement to make.

    A. The “buyer” is not a mystery, he exists. It took a minute on Google to find him before the panel report.
    B. The buffalo did not export, there was no sale. No VAT no income tax.
    C. Without a sale the money never belonged to the farm. The thieves stole Mustafa’s money.
    D. The farm was declared and well known for years. There is no way a shareholding in a game reserve represents a conflict or paid work. That angle is a red herring.
    E. CR reported the theft to an SAPS General. In my books that is reasonable. Did we expect the president to go lay a charge at the nearest police station that was open?

    As to the couch, I would venture the farm staff imagined the money is safer in the president’s home than a farm safe. Most farmers would agree…

    I seriously doubt one can tie CR to the subsequent actions in recovering the money.

    NOW : let’s have a look at Fraser, his breach of Secrets Act, his sitting on this claim till when it suited his objectives of causing chaos before elective conference and not facing personal consequences for the billions of public money his rogue agent network mislaid, the apparently fake video, etc etc etc.

  • D.R. W says:

    Trial by media. Plus the RET faction PLUS all opposition parties big or small who’ve all seemingly declared CR guilty regardless of the truth.
    Well we face a difficult dilemma here. CR alhas, by anyone’s account been useless. Yet we face a tsunami of uncertainty which feels a lot like heading towards the edge of the cliff. If the media and CR’s political rivals triumph, what awaits?
    A cocktail coalition of RET and EFF?

    Let your mind wander and imagine a a new ‘top 6’ comprising Dave Mabuza, Ace, Zweli Mhkize, NDZ, Ms Sisulu & Juju. Maybe put old Artie Frazer in as minister of justice For his brave work?

    Yup then we’ll be heading into an era of economic free fall, but socialist heaven!!!

    Anyhow, I’m dead keen on CR surviving – because uselessness is better than the RET/EFF a rand of populism designed to stir-up racial tensions and discontent. Then who knows?

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    OK – so at least we now know that the buyer was authentic and that it was not a set-up by Ramaphosa’s enemies. But we also know that the deal was not done by Ramaphosa himself, and that he ordered the lodge manager to bank the money, which was apparently not done. So, as we all knew anyway, Ramaphosa was not involved in the stuffing of the money in furniture, nor did he give permission for that. We also now know why the buffalo is still on the farm. Maybe we should consider what Hazim said, that he does not know what the fuss is all about. The only fuss here is that the RET faction, represented by Fraser, want a “fuss” to exist, so actually they are the ones that the press should start to focus on, and all the criminality that THEY engaged in; among others obstruction of justice, as was the charge that Paul O’Sullivan lay against Fraser. We in SA should care more about the truth and less about sensation, if you ask me.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Thanks, Rebecca, for the clarity. You don’t say how you think things stack up, which is good journo practice but we’d be interested to know if you have an opinion. Maybe Pierre might pose a legal opinion?

  • Andre Cruywagen says:

    All come back to the question of intentions. If we look at the timing of and the way in which Mr Fraser reported this matter it raises the question of what his real intentions were when he opened the case. If his intention were to help the country there is a few other cases that should be waiting in the line, before this one, of which he also had knowledge.

  • André Pelser says:

    The main issue is foreign exchange regulations and the president’s personal knowledge and involvement.
    Many speculators own livestock on farms.

  • Charles Guise-Brown says:

    The irony that the best that the RET faction can come up with is money being stolen FROM the President amidst the backdrop of the Zondo commission and all its grand scale theft and corruption should make one think…

    • Rg Bolleurs says:

      If cyril is completely innocent why didn’t he come out with his story on day 1?

      I suspect there is still more this than meets the eye

  • Alison Joubert says:

    The real question is why everyone, including Maverick it seems, is so keen to make everything about this deal look dodgy when it is all perfectly plausible, and as far as anyone can tell so far, legal as well. And the farm / Rhamaposa DID report the theft, so that angle won’t work either.

  • Davis Kate says:

    I agree with all these comments. I blame the media for sensationalizing the whole issue and playing right into the hands of CR’s enemies. Just nonsense, we don’t need this. There are far larger issues at hand to be dealt with.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    In reality it should take no more than two words to put it in perspective. Those are “Arthur Fraser”. As nasty and dodgy as they come.

  • Rob vZ says:

    So where is spotlight on the guy who ran an illegal billion rand spy network and conveniently walked into a police station to lay charges against a president during the same week the Zondo commission highlighted his criminality?

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