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LISTEN | DA asks Americans to investigate Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala saga

John Steenhuisen says local law enforcement cannot be trusted to be objective

DA leader John Steenhuisen says the party is putting its hopes on the FBI to get to the root of the Phala Phala farm saga while president Cyril Ramaphosa refuses to come out with the full details of what transpired. File photo.
DA leader John Steenhuisen says the party is putting its hopes on the FBI to get to the root of the Phala Phala farm saga while president Cyril Ramaphosa refuses to come out with the full details of what transpired. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

The DA has written to the FBI Pretoria field office to ask the US intelligence and security service to investigate allegations of money laundering by President Cyril Ramaphosa after a 2020 robbery at his Limpopo farm, Phala Phala. 

This comes as pressure from within the ANC and opposition parties mounts for Ramaphosa to be held accountable after allegations that he was involved in a cover-up of the theft of US dollars hidden in farmhouse furniture.

Addressing members of the media at the party’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Tuesday, DA leader John Steenhuisen said they had approached the FBI because they did not trust local law enforcement officials with the investigation.

“We have requested that the FBI considers investigating the source of the funds and whether the money was brought into SA legitimately and declared to the appropriate authorities.”   

While Ramaphosa has confirmed a robbery did take place, he has declined to give further details, saying he has been advised to let due processes take place.

Steenhuisen said this was no justification for his refusal to answer questions. 

Ramaphosa is also yet to give the ANC’s integrity committee a date for his session with it to explain the issue in detail.

Steenhuisen said the country will not wait for an ANC process. 

“These are serious allegations that will continue to do enormous damage to our economy and prospects for attracting investment and creating jobs, as well as to the credibility of the office of the presidency and the police and justice system.

“President Ramaphosa should end his silence and be honest and open with the nation about his involvement in the ‘Dollargate’ saga,” Steenhuisen said.     

The party has vowed to pursue every possible angle to hold Ramaphosa to account for the saga, which it said lays bare that the ANC is rotten from the head down. 

Writing to the FBI, the DA said it recommended that journals which would have recorded the alleged sale of wild game at auction be requested from the president, to determine the identities of those involved in “suspicious” cash transactions.

“A cash transaction within SA involving $4m is deeply suspicious, and more so since the cash was hidden in furniture and its theft investigated off-the-record and covered up.”

The DA cautioned against the matter being handled with sensitivity, saying Ramaphosa ought to be treated like former president Jacob Zuma during his Nkandla saga.  

“Like we persuaded Mr Zuma, like people within the ANC persuaded Mr Zuma, like parliament persuaded Mr Zuma, we need to make sure pressure is kept up.”

The opposition party announced several steps it would take to ensure the president is held accountable. They are: 

  • It has written to the Financial Intelligence Centre requesting it investigate the alleged financial transactions that followed from the theft, including the purchase of several luxury vehicles in cash.
  • It has directed these same questions to the tax fraud department at the SA Revenue Service.
  • It has written to Phindile Baleni, secretary of cabinet in the office of the presidency, to request sight of President Ramaphosa’s declaration of financial interests, as required by the Executive Members Ethics Act and the Executive Ethics Code, specifically to determine if the business activities on the president’s Phala Phala game farm have been declared as financial interests and when such declarations were made. 
  • It has written to advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, acting public protector, to lay a formal complaint in terms of the Executive Members Ethics Act and to request her to investigate the alleged breaches of the Executive Ethics Code. The party says Ramaphosa may have breached the code by failing to report the theft, which he was by law obliged to do, and by using public resources, specifically the VIP protection unit within the police service, to track and bring back his stolen dollars.
  • It has written to national police commissioner Fannie Masemola asking him to answer several questions.
  • It has requested the chairperson of the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, Gratitude Magwanishe, to summon the minister of justice to explain why SA didn’t respond with a case number, and therefore assets had to be released. He has agreed in principle, pending permission from parliament.
  • It has written to the minister of public works about the subsequent security upgrades at the president’s farm, and whether they were paid for, in full or part, using public funds.
  • It has written to Tina Joemat-Pettersson, chairperson of the portfolio committee overseeing the police, requesting that Majr-Gen Wally Rhoode appear before the committee.

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