South Africa

R10 million hidden in Ramaphosa’s couch

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa disclosed full details of how foreign currency he earned from the sale of buffalo was stolen from his game farm in 2020, saying he followed due process in reporting the crime and denied breaking any laws.

The animals were sold for $580,000 (R9.8 million) in cash to Sudanese national Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim in late 2019, Ramaphosa said in a 138-page submission made to an advisory panel that parliament set up to probe whether he had done anything untoward.

The manager of the game farm initially stored the money in a safe, but later transfered it to a sofa in a spare bedroom “inside my private residence, because he thought it was the safest place, as he believed nobody would break into the president’s house,” Ramaphosa said.

A furor surrounding the theft erupted in June when Arthur Fraser, the nation’s former chief spy, laid charges against the president, alleging that he failed to report the theft of more than $4 million from his farm in the northern Limpopo province.

Ramaphosa has previously refused to fully reveal what transpired, saying due process had to be followed, leading opposition parties to question whether he had broken exchange control and tax laws.

The scandal has undermined the 70-year-old Ramaphosa’s campaign to seek a second term as leader of the governing African National Congress when it holds its elective conference next month, although he remains the front-runner in the race.

Ramaphosa said he was attending an African Union summit in Ethiopia in February 2020 when the crime occurred, and that when he became aware of it, he reported the matter to Wally Rhoode, a police general who headed the Presidential Protection Service.

“I expected that he would do all that is necessary and take any other steps required in response to the information I shared with him,” Ramaphosa said. He denied playing any role in the investigation into the theft.

The findings of the parliamentary advisory panel are due to be made public on Wednesday evening following a month-long investigation, and it will spell out whether there are possible grounds for lawmakers to consider impeaching the president.

“I respectfully submit that all of the ‘charges’ I have been called to answer are without any merit,” and many of the allegations made were based on hearsay, Ramaphosa said in his submission seen by Bloomberg.

“I ask that the panel conclude that this matter ought not to be taken any further.”

The presidency declined to comment on Ramaphosa’s submission.

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