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Two suspects arrested for alleged role in 2020 burglary at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm to appear in court

Two suspects arrested for alleged role in 2020 burglary at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm to appear in court
Illustrative image: President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photos: Rawpixel | Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

In the latest instalment of the Phala Phala Farmgate scandal, two suspects are expected to appear in the Bela-Bela Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday for their alleged role in the break-in and theft of US dollars at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Limpopo farm in February 2020.

Two suspects are expected to make their first appearance in court on Tuesday, 7 November, in connection with the burglary that took place at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo in February 2020. The incident involved the theft of a large amount of US dollars that had reportedly been stashed in couches on the premises. 

In a press release on Monday, 6 November, the Hawks stated that the two suspects, aged 39 and 30, would appear in the Bela-Bela Magistrates’ Court on charges of housebreaking and theft. One was arrested on Sunday and the other on Monday. 

“The pair was arrested in Rustenburg and Bela-Bela, respectively, by the members of the National Serious Corruption Investigation in relation to the Phala Phala farm break-in [in] February 2020. The arrest of the third suspect is imminent,” the Hawks stated. 

The 2020 break-in placed Ramaphosa at the centre of controversy when it emerged that he had seemingly failed to report the crime to the police. The incident, known as the Farmgate scandal, only came to light in June 2022, when the former head of the State Security Agency (SSA) Arthur Fraser filed a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa in relation to the theft. 

Fraser alleged that Ramaphosa chose not to report the theft of millions of dollars to the police, but rather told the then head of his Presidential Protection Unit, Major General Wally Rhoode, to find the criminals and get the money back. According to Fraser, Rhoode and his team kidnapped and interrogated the suspects before paying them for their silence. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Unpacking the Cyril Ramaphosa home robbery story, and why you should care 

The Presidency was quick to respond to these claims, confirming the theft at Phala Phala but denying any criminal complicity on the part of Ramaphosa. However, Fraser’s allegations kicked off months of public and political scrutiny for the President. 

The Hawks took over the investigation of the break-in from the Presidential Protection Unit shortly after Fraser laid the criminal complaint against Ramaphosa.  

It later emerged that the stolen money had been part of a $580,000 cash payment for game from the farm. The buyer, Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa, reportedly paid for the animals in December 2019 but never arranged to fetch them. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know (and don’t know) so far

Political upheaval 

In the months after the theft became public knowledge, Ramaphosa was called to account for his handling of the incident before a number of bodies, including Parliament, the Public Protector, the South African Reserve Bank and an independent panel appointed to assess whether he had a case to answer in a Section 89 impeachment motion brought against him. 

There were questions about the money that was stolen and whether Ramaphosa had contravened foreign exchange regulations by failing to declare it. There were also concerns about whether the President had abused his power and state resources during the initial investigation of the break-in. 

Though the Section 89 independent panel report found that Ramaphosa had an impeachment case to answer over serious violations of the Constitution for exposing himself to a conflict of interest, doing outside paid work and contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act; in December 2022, the majority of MPs in the National Assembly voted to reject the report. Parliament did not proceed with the impeachment process. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Impeachment proceedings against Ramaphosa quashed as few rebels voted ‘yes’ and his loudest critics were nowhere to be seen 

In June 2023, the acting Public Protector, Kholeka Gcaleka, cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing in the complaint against him over the handling of the housebreaking and theft at Phala Phala. However, she found that Rhoode had abused the powers entrusted to him in his investigation of the incident. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa cleared of wrongdoing in Phala Phala scandal by Public Protector, Wally Rhoode now in firing line 

Not long after that, the South African Reserve Bank found that Ramaphosa had not contravened exchange control regulations by failing to declare the foreign currency stashed at his farm. It found that as Mustafa never collected the animals he bought, there was no “perfected transaction”. It further stated that Ramaphosa was not entitled to the funds as the conditions for the transaction had not been met. 

Despite the favourable findings of these institutions, the events of the scandal were widely viewed as weakening Ramaphosa’s political standing. Opposition parties have repeatedly pushed back against the idea that the President has nothing to answer for. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Unadulterated claptrap’ — opposition derides SA Reserve Bank’s Phala Phala findings, and legal challenges loom 

As Daily Maverick’s Stephen Grootes wrote, “There can be no doubt as to the political power of the Phala Phala scandal, which for a period of several days in December threatened to end Ramaphosa’s presidency.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Derek Jones says:

    Ok so why was it stashed in a sofa squirrel?

    • B M says:

      Suggesting that Cyril knew it was in his sofa is baseless speculation.

      • Derek Jones says:

        Wow that amount of money and what happens to it is immaterial to Squirrel, is that what you are suggesting then? Its a lot of money and we must assume he has no idea about it or where it was put? If that’s true he must be so loaded, that, while so many people go hungry?

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    The acid test should be, “would SA Reserve Bank and SARS accept the same story from Joe Citizen if caught in the same situation?”

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Let me guess…

    Mr and Mrs Potato head happened to be visiting?

    It was the couch potatoes your honor!

  • When the suspects appear in court perhaps they will tell us how much the stole. But perhaps their answers may have been “couched”…I mean “coached” from by gravy train captain!

  • Werner Hautmann says:

    I Have also had break ins that i have not reported as the police are useless, three as a matter of fact.
    Fraser Laid the charge? this is already suspect as he is such an honest cadre?
    Did anybody actually see the dollars? why would he hide it in a couch its a luxurious farm with more than one safe not a shack in an infromal settlement?

  • Cornay Bester says:

    “….the South African Reserve Bank found that Ramaphosa had not contravened exchange control regulations by failing to declare the foreign currency stashed at his farm. It found that as Mustafa never collected the animals he bought, there was no “perfected transaction”. It further stated that Ramaphosa was not entitled to the funds as the conditions for the transaction had not been met.”
    So nothing was stolen?

  • Nobody can be trusted to tell the truth. Hence the president and all others get away with criminal behaviour time and time again. And the law allows it to happen.
    Cry the beloved country.

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