Cape Town - Allegations levelled against President Cyril Ramaphosa for suspected criminality have amounted to more questions as the president distances himself from the matter, saying that he would never steal money from taxpayers.
According to the Presidency, Ramaphosa was out of the country attending an AU summit in Addis Ababa at the time the incident occurred but he reported the robbery to the head of the Presidential Protection Unit of the SAPS for investigation.
This comes after former State Security Agency boss Arthur Fraser deposed a damning affidavit last week requesting Ramaphosa be investigated for money laundering, corruption and kidnapping after a sum of between $4 million (about R62m) and $8 million (about R124m) was stolen from the president’s couch at his residence in Phala Phala farm.
“I appreciate that it is no small matter to lay criminal charges against a sitting president, but I am guided by the dictates of the interest of justice and our Constitution,” Fraser said.
In his affidavit, Fraser claimed the president appointed the head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Wally Rhoode, to investigate the matter, who under the instruction of the president then conducted an “illegal” investigation with the help of former members of the SAPS, members of SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit and a local farm owner.
“The team, as I have been advised, collected video and photo evidence, interviewed the domestic worker concerned and some of the suspects, recovered some of the stolen loot and obtained documentary proof of how some of the stolen US dollars had been spent by the alleged perpetrators,” he said.
He claimed that the president’s domestic worker conspired with the members of the Cyferskyl informal settlement who facilitated Namibian citizens living in Cape Town to steal money that was stashed in the president’s furniture.
They entered the president’s farm on February 9, 2020 by cutting the wire perimeter fence and entering through a window. Video footage capturing the incident also forms part of Fraser’s deposition that has been handed over to the SAPS.
Fraser further claims that the domestic worker was paid off with R150 000 in hush money to not disclose any of the information of the events of the evening.
The stolen money was traced and found to have been exchanged for South African rand at a business run by Chinese nationals in Hout Street, Cape Town.
The alleged perpetrators apparently spent the money frivolously on cars and deposited thousands of rand into various bank accounts.
According to Fraser, one of the suspects had been traced to Namibia, which prompted Ramaphosa to seek assistance from President Hage Geingob in apprehending the suspect.
Rhoode then travelled to Namibia, utilising official government resources without being legally processed through border control.
“The very fact that the president had large undisclosed sums of foreign currency in the form of US dollars concealed in his furniture at his Phala Phala residence is prima facie proof of money laundering. In this regard, it is prudent for the SAPS to establish the origins of these large sums of foreign currency.
“It is evident from the conduct of Mr Rhoode and his team acting at the instance of President Ramaphosa, having forcefully interrogated the alleged suspects, that their conduct amounts to kidnapping, in that they unlawfully and intentionally deprived the alleged suspects of their respective personal freedom of movement,” Fraser said.
DA leader John Steenhuisen has since said they would be calling on the South African Revenue Service to investigate whether the money was declared and whether it carried tax implications.
The DA was also expected to approach the South African Reserve Bank to ascertain whether this sum of foreign currency pertained to an illicit flow of funds and potential money laundering.
“The nation deserves to know the truth behind this transaction, and the DA will ensure that this matter does not become another ANC cover-up,” Steenhuisen said.
The GOOD Party’s Brett Herron believes this was a political ambush for the sake of factionalism: “The weaponisation of allegations of criminality for political rather than prosecutorial ends is symptomatic of the trouble SA and its criminal justice system is in.
“The president must urgently take the nation into his confidence to prevent this matter spiralling into another interminable round of factional point-scoring that the country can ill afford.
“If the law has been broken there must be consequences for the law breakers. If laws haven’t been broken the allegations must be put to bed,“he said.
Meanwhile, political analyst Trust Matsilele said that it was unlikely that prosecution of the matter would follow, considering that Ramaphosa was still in office. He said, however, that the allegations would have implications for Ramaphosa’s reputation.
“It taints his leadership because suddenly there are questions around his transparency,” he said.