The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has made a U-turn on its initial stance that its full report on the theft of $580,000 at the Phala Phala Wildlife Farm in Limpopo was too confidential for public release.
This came as two suspects – Namibians Imanuwela David (39) and Froliana Joseph (30) – appeared in Bela-Bela Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday concerning the controversial robbery at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm in February 2020.
They have been charged with conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, and money laundering.
Hours before the court appearance, SARB released the report despite claiming it was too confidential for the public eye.
According to the report, Ramaphosa’s company, Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC, did not violate laws related to handling the governance of foreign currency in private hands because there was no contract cementing the sale of the buffalos his client partly paid for.
The sudden release of the report goes against what SARB told the media less than three months ago, stating that it had finalized its investigation and report into the Phala Phala matter on August 14, 2023, but would keep it “internal.” This was after former spy boss Arthur Fraser laid criminal charges against Ramaphosa in connection with the robbery.
“The investigation was launched on the back of the allegations by Mr. Arthur Fraser on or about 1, June 2022, and the subsequent receipt by the SARB of complaints from various parties, including political parties. Due to legislative requirements and constraints which apply to the SARB, the report by the SARB into this matter is a private internal report and will not be made available to the public,” stated the SARB, back in August.
Things took a turn this week when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) announced that they had arrested two suspects in the Phala Phala case.
On Tuesday, David (39) and Joseph (30) appeared in Bela-Bela Magistrates’ Court on charges of conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, and money laundering.
The arrests are associated with several alleged crimes committed at Ramaphosa’s two farms, according to Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi, the NPA’s regional spokesperson in Limpopo.
“The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation arrested the pair on Sunday and Monday, respectively. The investigations revealed that between 1, January 2020, the accused persons conspired to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft at Phala Phala farm, and on 8, January 2020, Imanuwela and two others entered Stokkiesdraai farm believing that it was Phala Phala farm,” Malabi-Dzhangi said.
“They broke and entered, but nothing was stolen. The following night, they located the Phala Phala farm, where they broke, entered, and stole US$580,000.”
During their court appearance, Imanuwela was asked if they wanted legal representation, to which he said he would represent himself.
While Joseph did not speak, a concerned court official alerted the magistrate that she was a breastfeeding mother whose child wouldn’t survive days without her.
The court ordered that the baby be brought to the holding cells to be breastfed three times a day until the bail hearing is held.
The case was postponed to Friday (November 10) for a chance for the suspects to consider seeking legal advice and for a formal bail application.
The full SARB report details the correspondences between the investigators and those who exchanged dollars at Ramaphosa’s farm, including Ramaphosa through his lawyers.
According to the report, there were four players involved in the controversial dollars, namely Ramaphosa, Mr. Hazim, the buyer of buffalos, Mr. Ndlovu, a lodge manager at the farm, and Hendrik von Wielligh, the manager of the Phala Phala farm.
- Mr. Ndlovu told SARB that he provided an unsigned statement about 60 buffalos in Camp 6, some considered substandard;
- Mr. Ndlovu stated that Ramaphosa and Von Wielligh had mentioned that the asking price for each buffalo would be R400,000;
- Mr. Hazim, a potential buyer, arrived at the farm on December 25, 2019, and paid USD 580,000 in cash for the buffaloes. The money was stored in the safe at the farm’s visitors’ center;
- Ramaphosa was informed of Mr. Hazim’s visit and the money in the safe on December 26, 2019. He agreed to deal with the money upon his return and would discuss the transaction with Von Wielligh;
- Before going on leave, Mr. Ndlovu moved the money from the safe to the President’s house, where it remained until it was stolen on February 10, 2020;
- Mr. Ndlovu clarified several issues, including his role as lodge manager, not receiving approval for the buffalo sale, not giving an invoice to Mr. Hazim, and not informing Von Wielligh about the transaction;
- Mr. Hazim intended to sell the buffalos for a profit and left money at the farm as a security deposit. However, he struggled to find end buyers due to the Covid-19 lockdown and the slowed game market;
- Ramaphosa’s affidavit states that he was briefed about the sale and instructed Mr. Ndlovu to keep the money at the farm until his return. He denied speaking directly to Mr. Hazim and claimed not to have recalled a meeting involving himself, Von Wielligh, and Mr. Ndlovu regarding the buffalo sale;
- Ramaphosa acknowledged that Von Wielligh was not aware of the transaction until after the theft and stated that arrangements would be made to deliver the buffalo or refund Mr. Hazim;
- Von Wielligh, a lawyer, stated that he was not informed of the transaction and suggested that Ramaphosa’s direct interaction with Mr. Ndlovu may have contributed to the theft. He explained the usual process for buffalo sales, including inspection, invoicing, and reporting payment to Ramaphosa.
The financial surveillance department, FinSurv, said that Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) could not apply in this case because the transaction was not perfected.
“If there was such an unconditional contract, an entitlement to the foreign currency on the part of Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC would exist, triggering the obligation under Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) for Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC to make or cause to be made, within 30 days, a declaration in writing of such foreign currency to FinSurv or to an Authorized Dealer,” reported SARB.
“It appears from the facts available to FinSurv (as related to exchange controls), which have not been contradicted by any other evidence available to FinSurv, that the obligation under Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) was not triggered on the part of Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC upon receipt of the foreign currency from Mr. Hazim. In these circumstances, there would not be a breach of Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) by Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC.”