President Cyril Ramaphosa, in flatly denying any wrongdoing related to the Phala Phala saga, has revealed that his game farm operates "largely at a loss" and has funded it largely out of pocket.
This is revealed in Ramaphosa’s response to the panel appointed by the Speaker of the National Assembly to assess whether or not he has a case to answer.
The panel, headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, delivered its report to the Speaker on Wednesday and it is expected to be published later Wednesday evening. The panel’s appointment and work is a preliminary step in Parliamentary processes around a motion, brought by opposition MP Vuyo Zungula of the ATM in July, that seeks to remove the president in terms of Section 89 of the Constitution.
Section 89 allows for the removal of sitting president on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution of the law; serious misconduct or an inability to perform the functions of the office.
Zungula’s motion advanced four charges that Ramaphosa was called on to respond to all linked to the burglary at his Phala Phala farm in February 2020 – but rather than focusing the allegations on the contents of the affidavit filed by former SSA boss Arthur Fraser with the police in June 2021, the charges in the motion centre around Ramaphosa’s public statements in the wake of Fraser opening the criminal complaint and causing the information to become public.
Ramaphosa has, in a detailed response running to some 138 pages including annexures, rebutted all four charges and advanced his own version to challenge not only the allegations, but also the premise of the charges themselves.
Charge 1 – The ANC Limpopo Speech Charge
This charge accuses Ramaphosa of violating two key sections of the Constitution – Section 96 (2) (a) and 83 (b) – the first that members of cabinet and deputy ministers may not undertake any other paid work and in the latter that the President must uphold, defend and protect the Constitution.
Zungula bolstered the charge by including a link to a speech Ramaphosa gave at an ANC conference in Limpopo. He alleges that Ramaphosa’s comments that he was a farmer, in the cattle and game business confirmed that he was actively involved in his business.
Ntaba Nyoni Estates, a company of which Ramaphosa is the sole director, operates his game farming business at Phala Phala.
"I am the sole member [director] of the close corporation but I do not work for it and do not get any remuneration from Ntaba Nyoni. From the inception of Ntaba Nyoni in and around 2001, I have invested my and my family’s money to fund its operations largely at a loss," his submission to the panel reads.
Ramaphosa also said he was entitled to retain assets or financial interests "where no conflict of interest would arise, if these were declared".
"The ATM and EFF’s proposition that I have misconstrued my obligations in this regard is entirely without merit. I do not perform paid work for Ntaba Nyoni – nothing I said has ever suggested as much – nor do I receive remuneration for work or service other than my functions as President," the response adds.
Ramahosa also points out that the charge is "based on an error of law".
"The ATM seems to labour under the impression that I am forbidden from having any financial or business interests, or even investing in such interests. No such blanket prohibition exists."
Charge 2 – Failure to report
The second charge advanced is a violation of the law, with the ATM’s Zungula saying Ramaphosa violated Section 34 (1) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PRECCA).
Zungula alleges that Ramaphosa failed to report the theft of cash from his residence on the farm “to any police official as required by the Act”. The reporting of the burglary to Major General Wally Rhoode, a policeman and head of the presidential protection unit, was not compliance with the South African Police Service Act which directed that Section 34 PRECCA reports needed to be made to a designated Hawks officer.
Zungula attached a link to a tweet from the Presidency as the basis on which he concluded this.
When the PRECCA act is read closely it is clear that a person who is in a position of authority is obligated to report matters to the Hawks, including the theft of amounts of R100 000 or more. But the act also says they can also “cause such knowledge or suspicion to be reported.
"I have no personal knowledge regarding the theft itself. Similarly, I have no knowledge or suspicion and cannot reasonably be expected to have knowledge, of the perpetrators," Ramaphosa points out in his response. He was in Addis Ababa attending an African Union summit at the time of the burglary.
Ramaphosa maintains that he had no duty to report the matter in terms of Section 34 – because PRECCA was focused at major corruption and “could not have been intended” that the Hawks should investigate any and every theft involving amounts of R100 000 or more.
He had also reported the matter to Major-General Rhoode, a police official. “I was not in control of the process followed after I reported the matter to Major-General Rhoode. I can only assume that it was conducted in accordance with the rules and regulations of the SAPS governing such matters.”
He added that the lack of there being a case number was not a matter “over which I have any control”.
Charge 3 and 4 – Life and limb
The ATM accused Ramaphosa of violating the constitution, this time Section 96 (2) (b) and Section 83 (b) – with the former holding that members of cabinet and deputy ministers may not expose themselves to any situation that exposes them to a potential conflict of interests.
Both of these charges cover the President’s alleged "instructions" to Rhoode to investigate the burglary. Zungula has alleged that Rhoode was "directed" to deal with "security issues in the private farm of the president".
"President Ramaphosa’s life and limb was not threatened by the burglary and thus General Wally Rhoode had no business to be investigating anything at the Phala Phala farm as unlawfully directed by the president," Zungula’s tabled motion reads.
The president points out that the services, support and benefits afforded to presidents and deputy presidents was outlined in the Presidential Handbook, which states that the SAPS take “full responsibility for the protection and security of the President and Deputy President at all times during their term of office” that includes “static protection at all official and private residences”.
Ramaphosa said he had not had SAPS PPS members guarding Phala Phala because it was not his "primary residence and I felt it would be a waste of state resources to do so". Rhoode also confirmed this, and says he had repeatedly asked Ramaphosa since 2018 to allow PPS to look after the farm.
It was only after the burglary that PPS members were posted to the farm. "Their accommodation at Phala Phala was built at my personal expense".
Ramaphosa said he wished to limit state expense in terms of security, but he realised after the burglary that he “may have been overly conservative” with this. “The risk to my and my family’s safety, from anyone gaining unlawful access to my private space, was made plain to me,” he explained.
"The reporting of the housebreaking and theft to Major-General Rhoode was to ensure that he could properly fulfil his functions and was not in any way an instruction to investigate the matter beyond what was required of him to make a determination with regard to my safety and security and that of my private residence and my family," the response reads.
Rhoode, for his part, says he conducted a preliminary investigation at the behest of the now late General Silindile Mfazi, and that it was not his job to open dockets – he had taken the steps necessary asked of him, and moved on.