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Money talks – what the SA Reserve Bank report had to say about the Phala Phala couch cash

Money talks – what the SA Reserve Bank report had to say about the Phala Phala couch cash
Illustrative image: President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photos: Shelley Christians | Rawpixel)

Two suspects are facing criminal charges for their alleged role in the theft of $580,000 from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in February 2020. But where did the money come from and why was it never declared? According to the South African Reserve Bank’s report, it wasn’t Ramaphosa’s money to start with.

Throughout the Phala Phala scandal, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been called upon to account for his actions before several institutional bodies, including Parliament and the Public Protector. The theft of a large sum of undeclared US dollars from his Limpopo farm, and the subsequent off-the-books investigation to find those responsible, brought his conduct under scrutiny.

When the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) launched its investigation of the circumstances surrounding the stolen money in June 2022, its main objective was to determine whether the President had contravened Exchange Control Regulation 6(1), which states:

“Every person resident in the Republic who becomes entitled to sell or to procure the sale of any foreign currency, shall within thirty days after becoming so entitled, make or cause to be made, a declaration in writing of such foreign currency to the Treasury or to an authorised dealer.”

The decision to investigate was prompted by complaints sent to Sarb by various groups, including the DA, the EFF and Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance. 

These were based on the criminal complaint that former head of the State Security Agency (SSA) Arthur Fraser filed against Ramaphosa in relation to the theft. Among the allegations in Fraser’s affidavit was that the President had contravened fiscal and exchange control regulations.

Sarb’s report on the investigation, which found that Ramaphosa had not contravened regulations, was previously confidential. However, in September, the DA filed an application in the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria seeking to have the findings of the report overturned. The party is seeking a finding that Ramaphosa is guilty of exchange control violations, according to a News24 article.

The report has since been released as part of the central bank’s response to the DA’s legal challenge.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Money laundering and housebreaking charges brought against Phala Phala farm theft suspects

Buffalo spending

The Sarb report found that the stolen US dollars formed part of a $580,000 cash payment for buffalo from Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC (also known as Phala Phala Wildlife), the game ranching operation that conducts business at the Phala Phala farm. Ramaphosa is the sole member of Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC.

The buyer of the buffalo, Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa, visited the farm in December 2019, where he spoke to acting lodge manager Dumisani Sylvester Ndlovu. 

“After being shown a specific ‘parcel’ of animals in Camp 6, Mr Hazim selected 20 animals which he was interested in. Mr Hazim handed USD580,000 in cash to Mr Ndlovu as payment for the buffaloes he had selected,” stated the report.

The sale was in line with a discussion Ramaphosa had with the farm’s general manager earlier in the year about selling off certain substandard buffalo, potentially to buyers from the Middle East or other African countries.

Ramaphosa was reportedly not at the farm at the time the money was handed over to Ndlovu, but was informed of the transaction when he arrived on the property the following day. He instructed that the money should be kept at Phala Phala until his next visit when he could brief the general manager of the farm on the processing of the transaction.

“On or about [30 December 2019] Mr Ndlovu decided to move the foreign currency from the safe (to which many employees had access and which was used for general storage purposes at the Phala Phala farm) to a bedroom in the President’s house on the Phala Phala farm (which he considered to be a safer place) and hid it under the cushions of a sofa, for fear of some being stolen while he would be on leave,” stated the Sarb report.

“On [10 February 2020] it was discovered that the President’s house had been broken into and the foreign currency stolen.”

The buffalo were never delivered to Mustafa due to factors including the theft of the cash and the onset of the pandemic. The report also found that none of the stolen funds were recovered.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Reserve Bank’s buffalo-sized Phala Phala cop-out puts President Ramaphosa in the clear

Imperfect transaction

Although the US dollars remained undeclared at the Phala Phala farm for a period exceeding 30 days, Sarb determined that Ramaphosa was not in contravention of Exchange Control Regulation 6(1).

According to the report, while the money was handed over to Ndlovu in December 2019, the conclusion of the sale was subject to certain conditions being met. These included state veterinary examinations, blood tests for the animals and permits for their transportation.

As these conditions were never met, there was no “perfected transaction” between Mustafa and Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC. While the game ranching operation was in possession of the money, it had no legal entitlement to the funds due to unfulfilled conditions precedent to the sale.

“[The Financial Surveillance Department], on the facts available to it, cannot conclude that there was a contravention of Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) by either the President or Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC,” concluded the report.

The report did acknowledge some “inconsistencies and non-alignment” in the evidence it dealt with, but stated there were no material inconsistencies in Ramaphosa’s account of events.

The report’s findings have not gone unopposed. When Sarb governor Lesetja Kganyago presented the findings to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finances on 30 August, opposition MPs questioned their soundness.

United Democratic Movement chief whip, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, called the outcome “unadulterated claptrap”, according to a report by Daily Maverick’s Marianne Merten.

EFF MP Floyd Shivambu accused Sarb of trying to “cover up” what happened at Phala Phala.

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

On Tuesday 7 November, two suspects appeared in the Bela-Bela Magistrates’ Court for their alleged role in the theft of the money from Ramaphosa’s farm in February 2020.

Imanuwela David (39) and Froliana Joseph (30) face three charges: conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft; housebreaking with intent to steal; and housebreaking with intent to steal and theft. David faces an additional count of money laundering.

The Hawks have indicated that the arrest of a third suspect is imminent. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Cachunk Cachunk says:

    This is great news! I have some money offshore that I will bring in to buy a couple of donkeys, but as the transaction won’t be “perfected”, I won’t have to declare it. Thanks for setting the precedent dear President!

    • Utter Nonsense says:

      There was no crime committed as per the report, so these guys should only be trialed for housebreaking. Indeed this was a great coverup by SARB. There was no transaction in the first place. This money is funds the President receives for all the kick backs and this farm is used for money laundering. One of the farm workers knew about this money and informed his friends to come still it.

  • Pet Bug says:

    One can only assume that the Pres has reimbursed Mustafa for the undelivered substandard buffalos.

  • paul Volker says:

    The gymnastics that SARB went through to exonerate Cyril!! That ‘transaction’ looks dodgy as hell.

  • Herbert van Rensburg says:

    That is the most ludicrous “fairy tale” I have ever heard, who in their right mind will remove so much money from a safe and “hide” it under some cushions on a couch…bullshit!

  • Dermot Quinn says:

    Exchange control is such a dodgy piece of legislation. The rulings, which make up most of “law” in this regard are not available to all. It does not set precedent for consistency and transparency. Different Rulings can be applied to different entities with identical applications that are dealt with by different SARB employees. Banks are sh1t scared to do anything for fear of future negative treatment in their applications, so too many trivial applications are made wasting time and energy, holding up payments, disrupting cash flows etc.
    It needs a major overhaul.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    So we get closer and closer to the truth about the evil that permeates right to the top of the ANC. He is as big a scoundrel as his predecessor, and the blind voters in SA cannot see how this impacts in their lives on a day to day basis. Will the DA finally realise that the gloves should be off, and that the time for useless slogans and diplomatic conversations is long past? The elections in 2024 are theirs to lose, and I fear that recent history has shown they are going to screw it up – again.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Ja boet, that’s credibull.

  • Colin Louw says:

    What no one mentions is that the $580,000 could only have been in $100 bills at best as the USA has not issued larger bills for more than a decade. So there were 5,800 bills which would be about a 3inches thick wad about the size of a brick! Of course if it was in $50′ 2 bricks! Now if you put it under a cushion it would have been a serious lump in the arse for whoever sat on it. 🙂

  • Ben Hawkins says:

    🤣🤣 The Reserve Bank lying on behalf of CR to cover up the whole debacle.

    Why was the money hidden in the couch?

    They are all in cahoots, all ANC corrupt cadres.

  • Sue Hutchings says:

    Just let me try and convert, say £100, after getting back from a holiday but not do it within the allowed timeframe, I would be in all kinds of s*** !!!!!!

  • Dennis de Necker says:

    Can someone please explain to me:
    He VISITS the farm the next day
    He tells the ‘acting lodge manager’ face to face (ie NOT telephonically), to ‘keep the money on the farm’ –
    only US$ 580,000.00 ( upwards of R 10 million CASH).
    Why did he not take possession of the money while he was on the farm?
    No exchange of goods has yet happened – maybe a settlement of a debt?
    Being pressurised, he maybe brought the cash to SA to give it to CR in person, but then visited the farm a day too early?
    How can CR have such a casual attitude towards $ 580,000?
    Is this the CR that has been appointed the ultimate guardian of South Africa’s assets and future?
    This is beyond my level of understanding and intellect.

    Did the buyer perhaps forgetto deposit it into CR’s Dubai account,

  • Johan Buys says:

    what happened to the cash?

    as to the rest, the story is dodgy, but in all honesty I cannot see how somebody with CR’s wealth is going to bother with R10m cash deal in foreign currency and having to involve multiple parties.

    If he was going to be a crook it would, like with the other comrades, be for big money.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      “If he was going to be a crook it would, like with the other comrades, be for big money.”

      Are you suggesting that he doesn’t have that covered?

  • Jana Krejci says:

    where do I read the comments?

  • Kev 1 says:

    Once again, the underlings get charged and the big fish get away scott free – to continue with their corrupt feeding at the nations troughs of the poor, and honest taxpayers – how pathetic.

  • Ceo86 says:

    The obvious question is how did the Sudanese businessman bring that much forex into the country?

  • perry.garlick says:

    The Sudanese Businessman is owed USD 582,000, by Rhamaposa. He received no Buffalo. There is no mention of reimbursement. Also why did Sudanese businessman not declare the cash on entry to the country. The whole thing still stinks, because the transaction is not done in a proper manner. There is no contract, no invoice, No bill of sale. The money if the truth be known was a payment to Rhamaposa for services rendered when he went to Sudan, to broker a so called peace. Or for some other favour.

  • Hans van de Riet says:

    Who has ever heard of handing over so much cash for any legitimate transaction, instead of going through the banking system. Claptrap indeed!!

  • Colin Braude says:

    “The buffalo were never delivered to Mustafa due to factors including the theft of the cash and the onset of the pandemic. ”
    A Ramaphosa lie.

    1. If there was a genuine arm’s-length sale, then Mr Mustafa had settled the purchase price; the seller’s [Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC/Phala Phala Wildlife/Cyril Ramaphosa] subsequent custodianship of the payment has no effect on the sale.

    2 The sale was Xmas 2019. SA’s Covid lockdown was from 15 March 2020. The seller and buyer had two and a half months to action the sale. (There is no record of the farm charging the new owner grazing fees for the buffalo)

    If Reserve Bank fell for this pile of buffalo-dung they can go jump in a firepool.

  • jannesnel says:

    United Democratic Movement chief whip, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, called the outcome “unadulterated claptrap”, according to a report by Daily Maverick’s Marianne Merten.
    I concur…

  • Val Ruscheniko says:

    I wonder if “Hazim Mustafa” now has a SA ID no. and honorary SA citizenship (plus SA PASSPORT) seeing the ongoing precarious state of chaos in Sudan? Something smells very rotten here, and it’s not only just “substandard buffalo” spoor. Taking charge of this large amount of unrecorded foreign cash currency that has entered the country cannot be simply dismissed as “holding it ………..pending”.
    Follow the money which is now claimed to be unrecoverable. Luthuli House would be a good starting point.

  • If the money wasn’t Ramapoesa’s, then who is laying the charge of the theft of the money? Who declared the cash on its entry into SA? Was Ramapoesa in possession of foreign currency that entered the country illegally and if so, didn’t have the obligation to report this? So many questions that we will never hear answers to.

  • Robin Kemp says:

    Not his money – So now Ramaphosa is a bank ?

  • Brian Potter says:

    Well we have come to expect a lot of claptrap from the President and his supporters so what’s new.

  • Albert FIVAZ says:

    If the money did not belong to Cyril, who is the complainant ??. (usually the owner of the property)
    Surely in a case of theft there has to be a person/entity that was wronged.
    Looks like this prosecution will be another exercise in futility.

  • The absence of a well-defined sales agreement, in which both the buyer and seller mutually consent to the sale terms, encompassing price, quantity, and any specific conditions or warranties, is a crucial factor that defines the Phala Phala case as a prime example of money laundering.

    While the SARB might have managed to persuade Parliament that the transaction was “imperfect” as a means to legitimize the illicitly acquired funds, the absence of a formal agreement raises suspicions of financial irregularities. This is because a clear agreement typically plays a pivotal role in ensuring transparent and legally sound financial transactions.

    Consequently, the lack of such an agreement, given the substantial amount of cash involved, should raise concerns regarding the potential unlawful acquisition and laundering of funds within the Phala Phala case.

  • David Mark says:

    No questions asked: do you need to store cash foreign currency? Come to CouchSA, we’ll hold your cash in a couch-shaped safe for as long a it needs for a small fee. There are clearly no rules for bringing in bags of cash into our country, no laws will be broken. If you want more security, I have a bridge I can sell you, on condition of course, so it may never become a perfected transaction.

  • Henk Vallentgoed says:

    Really funny story to read. Never expected anything different to the “findings” of the report.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    The SARB has always felt to me like one of the few remaining bastions against bananarism. That feeling has now passed.

  • Antonio Arrocha says:

    So, let me understand this. The buyer, Mr Hazim “handed USD580,000 in cash to Mr Ndlovu as payment for the buffaloes he had selected,” stated the report.
    Now, as far as I know, one may only bring ZAR25 000 in cash, into the country. That’s around $1500.

    Now, regardless of the conditions of the contract, surely at that point, something was wrong. At that point, the cash was destined for Ramaphosa.
    Was it not in Mr. Ramaphosa to say something? He forgot? He didn’t know? Huh?

    Surely, everything that happened after that is inconsequential?

    Just trying to understand SA law. Can one commit a crime, and the after the event create an excuse, alibi, get out of jail free card, conditional contract ….. ??

  • Diana Clarke says:

    What continually amazes me is how flippen stupid do they really think we are?- and that we buy into their bullsh1t. They know their story is dodgy and nonsensical but they have no conscious, integrity or shame and bumble along wiping their sweaty forehead in relief- 😅 whew. We just dodged that one. chuckle chuckle aren’t we so clever. Now…..what do I owe and to whom??? Thanks again for saving my ass fellow cadres.

    • Belinda Cavero says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I think the ANC knows where they get most of their votes from, so they chuckle chuckle indeed. Keep handing out the T shirts and lunches and their voters won’t ever even read about this SARB finding.

  • virginia crawford says:

    How do you get over $500 000 into the country? Hand luggage?

  • Stephen Paul says:

    So lets see. This “businessman” from Yemen somehow manages to illegally bring into the country undeclared USD580 000 cash, hands it over to a lodge manager without any documentation for product he has no assurance will be cleared for sale, the manager in his wisdom decides that it is safer to move it from a safe where other employees have access which is no safe at all, and he presumably thinks that Mr Ramaphosa cannot afford to buy an actual safe safe, to under the cushions of his bedroom sofa for more than 30 days allowed under exchange control regulations, and the SARB comes to the conclusion that there were no material inconsistencies
    SARB I have a mountain in Cape Town to sell you. Unadulterated claptrap is being kind.
    We are living in a lunatic asylum run by the inmates.

  • Sarel Van Der Walt says:

    It would be strategic from a legal point of view to have both SARS & SARB reports on Phala Phala entered into the court records with both having to defend their interpretations of the law, preferably all the way to the SCA & CC. Even if both SARS & SARB win their cases, other importers & exporters will have a legal precedent for similarly treatment by these organisations of any advance/deposit for any transaction.

    Also, anyone still wondering why SA got greylisted last year?

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Nothing to see here, move along!

  • Sihle Ngcobo says:

    It would be proper for the Sudanese gentleman to lay the charges as the money still belonged to him, but then again Mr. Mustafa exchanged his Sudanese Pounds for US Dollars and packed the dollars in a bag before boarding a plane to South Africa buy animals from a South African president who happened to be out of South Africa on the day, country that uses Rand.

  • Johan Bosman says:

    As they say: a fish gets rotten from its head – from Cyril downwards to the most junior are rotten and nobody is in yellow suits!!

  • Henri Christie says:

    Total BS. Friends in high places covering Silent Cyril’s back. How did the then so-called buyer bring such a large amount of foreign currency in cash into SA???

  • Peter Van Zyl says:

    What a load od Persiflag’ea Polite expression to convey that the manner in which the “investigation” was conducted and also the “findings” which “absolved all parties”? is patently B*^L #hi%.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Certain rules apply to the plebs and others to the connected elite. Why has the reserve bank not prosecuted for the non declaration of foreign currency.
    Obvious answer. If you are part of the corrupt ANC rules do not apply.

  • Libby De Villiers says:

    As usual the little guys get thrown under the bus. Only because they don’t know the right people or have enough money too pay a bribe.

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