Phala Phala: Man who ‘masterminded’ R10 million theft from President Ramaphosa denied bail

Two people in the dock

Imanuwela David with co-accused Froliana Joseph during their first court appearance at Bela Bela Magistrate's Court. File Picture: Thabo Makwakwa / Independent Media

Published Dec 8, 2023


Imanuwela David, the man accused of being the mastermind behind the February 2020 theft at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s house, at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo has been denied bail.

David, 39, is charged alongside siblings Froliana Joseph, who was a domestic worker at the Phala Phala farm and her brother, Ndilinasho Joseph.

The Joseph siblings were released on bail last month. The State did not oppose bail, and it was set at R5,000 for Froliana and R10,000 for Ndilinasho.

Their stringent bail conditions include that they hand over their passports, and they may not leave the Bela-Bela area without informing the police.

Magistrate Predeshni Ponnan. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

On Friday, Bela Bela Magistrate Predeshni Ponnan ruled that David has not discharged the burden of proof placed on him that he is a good candidate for bail.

“The court’s finding … it is clear from the evidence tendered by both the State and the defence that the accused number one (David) knowingly flouted the laws of not only this country but that of Namibia by contravening the Covid-19 regulations during the lockdown, and by attempting to flee the country through illegal means.

“The conduct of accused number one is indicative that he possesses to commit further crimes as well as evading his trial.

“The State clearly illustrated to this court that accused number one’s testimony was rife with inconsistencies and that he intentionally set out to deceive and confuse the investigating officer and this court,” she ruled.

Imanuwela David was denied bail. File Picture: NPA

The magistrate also found that David has no fixed physical address which could be verified with certainty.

“He further misled this court regarding ownership of movable or immovable property.

“The court has also taken into consideration that due to the nature of crimes committed, the large amount of monies that have been stolen, and the fact that the investigation is still ongoing and revolves largely around the conduct of accused number one as well as two further suspects that are yet to be apprehended there is a strong possibility that accused number one, should he be released on bail, may tempter or interfere with the investigation or the State witnesses, or destroy or conceal any evidence against him,” Ponnan ruled.

“It is very clear that accused number one has not satisfied this court that it is in the interest of just for him to be released from custody. Bail is accordingly denied.”

Earlier this week, Limpopo spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi, told IOL that Imanuwela David has given more than three residential addresses.

Limpopo spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi. Picture: Supplied

She said David, giving evidence in his bail application before the court on Wednesday, testified that he has no other assets besides a shack and two dogs.

In opposing David’s bail application, investigating officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ludi Rolf Schnelle told the court that the police have unearthed that David owns a Mercedes-Benz, and lived at a luxurious estate in Cape Town after the Phala Phala theft.

Police have also established that David previously purchased a house in Tlhabane West, Rustenburg after the Phala Phala theft.

Schnelle said the property was purchased on March 17, 2020 at a price of R980,000.

“This transaction was flagged by the Financial Intelligence Centre as a suspicious transaction and the purchase of this property was facilitated using illicit funds stolen during the housebreaking at Phala Phala,” said Schnell.

In 2022, the house was transferred into the name of a Namibian national Hafeni Felish for an undisclosed amount.

The three suspects are facing several charges in connection with the theft of $580 000 (around R10.87 million) on February 9, 2020, at the president’s farmhouse.

Ndilinasho Joseph, Froliana Joseph and Imanuwela David at the Bela Bela Magistrate’s Court. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

The three accused are charged with housebreaking and the theft. David faces an additional charge of money laundering.