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Hazim Mustafa on scandal that rocked SA – ‘I just went there and I bought… buffaloes from the farm’

Hazim Mustafa on scandal that rocked SA – ‘I just went there and I bought… buffaloes from the farm’
From left: Hazim Mustafa. (Photo: Supplied) | South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

The Sudanese businessman who allegedly bought 20 buffalo for $580,000 in cash from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm has told eNCA’s Annika Larsen that ‘it was a normal business transaction’.

Hazim Mustafa is a Sudanese millionaire, living in Dubai, who was identified by News24 in September as possibly being “Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim” who allegedly paid $580,000 for 20 buffalo owned by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Daily Maverick’s Rebecca Davis reported.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Sudanese businessman tells Sky News he is Ramaphosa’s buffalo buyer – but how does his story stack up?

Earlier this month, Mustafa told Sky News that he paid $580,000 in cash for 20 buffalo from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in December 2019 — but had no idea that the animals, or the farm itself, were owned by the President.

eNCA’s Annika Larsen visited Mustafa and his South African wife, Bianca O’Donoghue, at their home in Dubai, to get Mustafa’s version of events, leading up to his purchase of the buffalo, which he still hasn’t received.  

‘Normal business transaction’

Speaking to Larsen about the Phala Phala purchase — and dressed in head-to-toe Gucci — Mustafa said he was surprised to be dragged into the media spotlight of an international scandal, for what he considered to be “a normal business transaction”.

“It’s nothing to do with His Excellency the President — I just went there and I bought cattle and buffaloes from the farm,” said Mustafa.

Mustafa is a Sudanese businessman who has lived in Dubai since 2011. He claims to have made his fortune from agricultural imports and exports.  

“I started my business from scratch… My main business line is agricultural imports and exports, to supply fertilisers, and export [crops].” 

Mustafa said he hadn’t done much business in South Africa before his infamous buffalo purchase “only one transaction about six years ago of flower seeds”.

$600,000 in cash

However, on 23 December 2019, Mustafa arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg with $600,000 in cash, which he claims he declared. According to him, he was in South Africa for his wife’s birthday.

“I know the regulations all over the world: If you declare it, you have no problem — as long as you are not smuggling,” said Mustafa, saying his plan was to buy a house for his wife in Cape Town.

Mustafa said he had also planned to buy game in South Africa and, after receiving an urgent call that he had to return to Dubai for a meeting, he decided to use his cash to purchase game and planned to return to South Africa at a later stage to go house-hunting. The buffalo, Mustafa said, were a business purchase, as they are very profitable.  

When asked by Larsen why he didn’t take the cash back with him to Dubai, he responded: “It’s a headache to take it back and bring it back again. And it’s already there, so…”

Sun City

The couple were staying at Sun City in North West, and it was at the hotel that Mustafa said he first heard about Phala Phala.  

“I was sitting at the hotel — Sun City — and I met one guy who was also in breeding, and he told me that the best quality you can find was in Phala Phala, which [was] not so far from [there]. He didn’t know that I had money,” said Mustafa, who added that he couldn’t recall the man’s name.  

According to Mustafa, the mysterious breeder told him he would be able to purchase a larger quantity of buffalo than normal at Phala Phala as the farm was “facing some financial issues”. Mustafa drove out to Phala Phala on Christmas Day, where he says he met the acting farm manager, Sylvester Ndlovu, who showed him the buffalo in the farm’s Camp 6.

“Then we agreed on the price. I gave [Ndlovu] the money,” said Mustafa, adding that Ndlovu informed him it would take some time to arrange the documentation to get the animals through customs.

According to Mustafa — and also indicated on the receipt shown in the eNCA interview — he paid $580,000 for 20 buffalo from Phala Phala.

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

He says he didn’t know the farm and the buffalo belonged to Ramaphosa until the theft of the money was reported in the media in June this year. 

“When I saw the news in June 2022 that there was money under a mattress, it never came into my mind that that’s my money. I thought: What the hell? The President’s farm should be the most secure area.”  

Mustafa claims he didn’t link the two, “until maybe two months after”, when Ramaphosa declared the money was the proceeds of Mustafa’s game purchase.

Mustafa said he never went back to South Africa to undergo questioning by law enforcement officials, but was questioned by the police via phone and email. When required to submit documents to the police, he emailed copies of the documents.

Public Protector’s office

He said he was contacted by the Public Protector’s office for the first time “a few days ago. The last call I had was three days ago from the Public Protector’s office.”

He claims to have had no contact with Ramaphosa or his office and has still not received the buffalo for which he paid $580,000.

“When are you ever going to get the buffalo you paid for?” Larsen asked him.

“For sure, now — after the investigation finishes — either I will go or I’ll send my legal team to negotiate with them. If [the buffalo] are not there — the quality and quantity which I asked and which I chose, then they should refund… me,” responded Mustafa. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Fraser stepped on a landmine.


  • Jo Stielau says:

    This is old and regurgitated news. Can’t understand why this journalist gets a by-line for putting quotation marks around Annika Larsen’s work.

  • D.R. W says:

    Well – it will be fun to see how the law manages this matter as opposed to the RET politicians who have extracted maximum value out of it to date. The pieces all fit together and add up to a coherent story about a legit transaction, though carrying around $1/2 million is t usual, we do live in Africa and that’s what despots and the monies folk do….
    There are still some unanswered questions around how this stolen money was recovered – which really sounded quite bizarre. Again, perhaps unusual but not too out of line in our 3rd world continent?

  • Danial Ronald Meyer says:

    THE STORY is believable, but things so clearly went wrong for the seller (a) due to laxness in securing the cash and (b) by flouted exchange control regulations. If the theft occurred before exchange control compliance could take place, the seller was still obliged to report the theft to the police AND to the forex regulator. One would have thought such action is commonsensical for the seller.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    The buffaloes cannot be allowed to leave the country with skokiaan foreign exchange documentation and explanation how he entered the country in total violation of the laws of the country. Documentation regarding the permit of Phala Phala to trade in wild animals have to be produced and where obtained and the person who authorised the issue. This will open the legal skulls of Thuli Madonsela and Calland on some of the key aspects of Justice Ngcobo’s Panel basis of findings. If these buffaloes are allowed to leave the country without these documents and explanations it will be another criminal offence. We as citizens are waiting for the production of all this information that the lopsided parliament refused that they be produced and the skokiaan legal experts who attacked the panel have no clue of their need.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      What prompted the buyer to purchase buffaloe on
      A) Christmas Day?
      B) when CR was apparently not around?
      C) At year end when compliance is difficult?
      D) When Dubai is apparently too hot and physically unsuitable for these herbivores to survive?

      And finally….. where is the stolen R9m (?) now – back in Dubai? Or earning interest in SA?
      So many questions, so few answers…..

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      I must say I am very disappointed with all of you. South Africa must be the only country where people are so desperate for sensation that they would rather listen to the lies of a corrupt official that is known for causing chaos with spreading such narratives, above the credible explanations of everyone else. It was said elsewhere that, when Ramaphosa was told about the transaction and the money, he instructed Ndlovu to go and bank the money, as all of us would have. But Ndlovu clearly did not; he is apparently not working for the farm any more but for . . . Arthur Fraser himself now. Yet I don’t hear any of you now accusing Ndlovu of a crime or anything. May I just remind you that to hold a politician to account is when he really did something wrong, not when he was the victim of a crime himself, and it is also done on grounds of fact, not on grounds of fake narratives told on allegations from a discredited person who clearly has a motive to lie.

  • Derek Engelbrecht says:

    Watch out for tenders awarded to his Company to know the truth.

  • Cherry White says:

    Well, I’m seeing a possible violation of cross-border currency regulations and I’d like to know if the sale was included in the Phala Phala tax returns covering the period around December 2019.

    This is a very improbable yarn: what was this payment really for? You don’t pay $580 000 and leave your so-called purchases happily grazing away for 3 years.

    Was Hazim Mustafa involved in brokering any large South African government procurements?

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      As a former freedom fighter, once it was mentioned that the fellow is Sudanese . A number of issues have cross my mind. The first is how this fellow obtained US dollars in a highly regulated foreign exchange market. As a person who worked in the Presidency under Mbeki and held a diplomatic red passport not the black official passport, one had difficulty even with that passport to change back from Sudanese currency to dollars and you had to produce the initial document of currency conversion along with receipts of purchase in Sudanese
      currency. This alone raised flash light in my heads with full knowledge of the various exchange regimes in Africa and how difficult to obtain dollars. He is probably a criminal to be carrying such an amount and he will have to explain to the Sudanese authorities how he obtained such an amount just to carry around leisurely. He says it is small change but can face the firing squad in Sudan for having such sums. Even in Dubai, he has to have a lot of explanation. He is now under the US criminal justice system because he is dealing with their currency and Merrick Garland of the DoJ is paying attention to this fellow like the Guptas.

      • Anne Erwin says:

        How interesting that you had a red diplomatic passport Cunningham, what made you so special?

      • William Stucke says:

        You’ve made some pretty wild allegations in your comments on this article, Cunningham.

        Neither “Hazim Mustafa” nor “Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim” are listed on the US’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (“SDN List”) by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) so I wonder where you are getting your information from?

    • Johan Buys says:

      Cherry: There was no sale as the buffalo are not shipped, so no issue of invoices and tax. Have you tried exporting a herd of buffalo to a spot in Dubai able to receive them? Then try that during Covid. The thieves stole Mustafa’s money, not the farm’s (there being no sale). Fraser should ask the farm manager about the couch, since the farm manager now works for Fraser’s sister….

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    As much as I want to believe this I don’t. Much more to this story.

    • Johan Buys says:

      The back-story here has many moving parts, comprising mainly the people most eager to avoid prosecution in terms of Zondo findings. Fraser thought he was a lot smarter than he really is, now this is backing up on him. Apparently the Phala Phala farm manager now works for Fraser’s sister. Would you really rather believe the ex spy named for billions in theft and abuse of power to further Zuma’s aims, who sat on this story until exactly when it would help that snake former public protector the most, and then it just happens to turn out that the main actor works for his sister…

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