SPIES R US
Public Protector’s preliminary Phala Phala report clears Ramaphosa of wrongdoing
Now that a confidential preliminary report on the investigation into the Phala Phala farm theft has been completed, Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has given implicated individuals 10 calendar days to make representations.
A leaked and confidential report from the Office of the Public Protector clears President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing in the handling of the theft of forex at his farm and rather points fingers at the police and the head of the Presidential Protection Service, Major-General Wally Rhoode.
Deputy Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka is said to have made findings which show that Rhoode’s conduct was improper in that he abused his position in launching an off-the-books investigation that utilised police resources.
Daily Maverick has seen a copy of the confidential 191-page preliminary report, which is subject to change.
In the report, the Public Protector quashes allegations that the President failed to report the crime of housebreaking with any ill intent. The findings state that the Public Protector does not support accusations of abuse of power in utilising state resources by the President.
“The allegation that the President failed to report the crime that took place at Phala Phala farm and abused his power in utilising state resources by causing the Presidential Protection Service to be deployed to Phala Phala farm and to investigate a housebreaking with the intent to steal and theft at the said farm, is not substantiated.
“Measured against the standard imposed by the Executive Ethics Code, the Public Protector is likely to find that there is no basis upon which to conclude that the President violated clause 2.3(d) and (f) of the Executive Ethics Code. It can also not be concluded that the President’s conduct constitutes improper conduct as contemplated in section 182(1) of the Constitution and abuse of power as contemplated in section 6(4)(a)(ii) of the Public Protector Act,” according to the leaked document.
The findings instead state that members of the South African Police Service attached to the Presidential Protection Service acted improperly by investigating the crime of housebreaking.
“Having examined all the available evidence, the conduct of Gen. Rhoode and Sergeant Rekhoto constitute improper conduct as envisaged in section 182(1) of the Constitution and maladministration in terms of section 6(4)(a)(i) of the Public Protector Act,” the report reads.
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Opportunity to respond
Amid media reports on the findings of the preliminary report, a statement was issued by the Public Protector’s office on Saturday morning. It sets out that those implicated in the report will be given the opportunity to respond to the Public Protector’s preliminary findings.
“The Public Protector South Africa confirms that on 10 March 2023, a notice in terms of section 7(9) of the Public Protector Act 23 of 1994 read with Rules 42(1) and 41(1) of the Rules Relating to Investigations by the Public Protector and Matters Incidental Thereto, 2018, as amended, was delivered to the affected and implicated persons in the Phala Phala farm investigation.
“The final report on the matter will be released once the inputs of the implicated individuals have been considered and a final report is produced and published in terms of section 8(1) of the Public Protector Act read with section 182(1)(b) of the Constitution,” according to acting spokesperson Ndili Msoki. The statement also cautioned that the contents of the report “remain prohibited for public consumption”.
In response to the 191-page report, the Presidency reiterated its stance that Ramaphosa is innocent of any wrongdoing in connection with the Phala Phala farm theft.
“The Presidency is in receipt of the Public Protector’s preliminary report on the investigation of whether the President breached the Executive Ethics Code with respect to the Phala Phala matter. We note the report. As stated before, we reiterate that the President did not participate in any wrongdoing, nor did he violate the oath of his office. Instead, the President was a victim of a crime that he duly reported to the relevant authorities,” Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said.
In June 2022, African Transformation leader Vuyo Zungula compelled the Public Protector to launch an investigation into Ramaphosa’s violation of the Executive Members’ Ethics Act (EMEA) in connection with the scandal.
This was prompted by former spy boss Arthur Fraser’s allegations that Ramaphosa was involved in illegal activities surrounding a burglary at his farm. He claimed Ramaphosa had breached the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and that large undisclosed sums of US dollars were removed from the Limpopo farm by burglars.
Instead of reporting the matter to the police, Ramaphosa has been accused of having secretly instructed Rhoode to investigate the matter. Rhoode’s investigation led to the belief that the perpetrators were linked to a domestic worker at the farm.
Fraser alleged that the suspects were caught, kidnapped and interrogated, and he believed crimes of defeating the ends of justice, kidnapping and money laundering were committed. Ramaphosa is also alleged to have paid suspects, including his domestic workers, R150,000 each to not reveal the incident to anyone after the offenders had been traced and apprehended.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Ramaphosa’s farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know and don’t know so far”
Since Fraser made the public aware of the matter, a Section 89 Independent Panel was established to probe the matter. The panel led by retired Judge Sandile Ngcobo found that there is prima facie evidence that Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution and may have abused his powers.
However, opposition parties failed to garner enough votes to have the report adopted in Parliament, a move which could see Ramaphosa facing impeachment.
Rhoode was demoted and is facing charges in relation to the improper handling of the burglary at the President’s home.
After Ramaphosa received two bloody noses in the Phala Phala affair within a week, a tax compliance statement issued by SARS this week indicated that the $4-million sale of game at his Phala Phala farm in 2020 has been declared. DM