President Cyril Ramaphosa told the panel established by Parliament to examine allegations relating to the Phala Phala saga that he never drew a salary, and that he had declared his financial interests at all times.
Ramaphosa, a prolific game breeder and businessman, divested from his business interests in 2012 after he became deputy president.
He held onto his two farms – Ntaba Nyoni in Mpumalanga, that he has owned since the early 2000s, and Phala Phala in Limpopo, that has been in operation since roughly 2010. Both properties are owned by the Tshivhase Trust, and the corporate entity used to manage the farms is Ntaba Nyoni Estates Pty (Ltd).
"I am entitled to retain assets or financial interests where no conflict of interest would arise, if these are 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 in the service of the people of South Africa," his submission to the panel read.
The panel, chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, was set up to establish whether there was evidence of wrongdoing on Ramaphosa's part in the Phala Phala saga.
The allegations were first made public by former State Security Agency director-general Arthur Fraser in an affidavit to police in June. He alleged that Ramaphosa and his head of security, Major General Wally Rhoode, had engaged in a cover-up and committed other offences in the process after the theft of $580 000 at Phala Phala in 2020.
Ramaphosa's response to the panel provides the first indication of how the president will defend allegations that he violated the Executive Members' Ethics Act by having an income other than his salary.
"Much like a shareholder of a company, who receives no remuneration, I am not on any payroll other than that of the Presidency. As previously stated, I have no personal knowledge regarding the theft itself," Ramaphosa's response read.
The response was leaked just as the media briefing was under way in Cape Town for the official handover of the panel's report to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.