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Farmgate: Does Cyril Ramaphosa have a case to answer?

Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to attend the Stud Game Breeders auction at Mbizi Lodge outside Bela-Bela. Picture: Stefan Heunis

Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to attend the Stud Game Breeders auction at Mbizi Lodge outside Bela-Bela. Picture: Stefan Heunis

Published Jun 23, 2022

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Xolani Mamkeli

The Phala- Phala imbroglio has set tongues wagging in the country ever since it transpired that our president has dollars banked underneath his mattress on his farm.

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These shocking revelations were contained in a criminal matter reported by the director general of Security Services, Arthur Frazer. Indeed, this sent shock waves across the length and breadth of the political discourses. This matter apparently occurred in 2020. Hitherto, it has failed to be extinguished, notwithstanding the cover-up by the office of the presidency.

I, therefore, unequivocally throw my salvo as well in this regard. My discontentment, flabbergast and befuddlement is the eerie silence of the Customs and Excise Division of Sars that does have a provision to deal with these matters.

The commissioner of Sars is very silent and fiddling while Rome is burning. This opinion would have also been an open letter to him to show the requisite leadership irrespective of who is alleged to have committed an offence. Customs duties are to facilitate legitimate trade between South Africa and the world. It is for this very reason that in 1964 Customs and Excise Act 91 was promulgated to look into these issues of trade, including the declaration of money and other goods when entering the ports of entry in our republic.

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Furthermore, the very act seeks to provide for the levying of Customs Excise duties, the prohibition and control of the importation or manufacture of certain goods and matters incidental thereto. Our president seems to be impervious to the very laws and constitution that he should be abiding by. During the Limpopo conference a fortnight ago, he tacitly admitted to this crime, ‘’t’s less than that’’, he intoned to his supporters.

Our constitutional drafters were very far ahead of the challenges that might be faced by the leaders of this country. What is regrettable is that the very person who was a harbinger of the drafting of the constitution now is faced with a conundrum he helped to promulgate.

Cyril Ramaphosa has violated tax laws. I don’t want to mention other contravention that might be mentioned here deliberately. We have a president that has surreptitiously gone rogue. He is supposed to be a custodian of our Constitution. As citizens, we have a responsibility to act and protect it if it will come under fire from the very person that has been given the responsibility to guard it.

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Now, in South Africa, we find ourselves confronted by a question that was once posed by a famous satirical philosopher poet Juvenal in Ancient Rome when he asked: Quis custodies ipsos custodes- Who is guarding the guards?

Former president Thabo Mbeki was tasked with the commission on illicit financial flows from Africa policy brief1: 2016 High-Level Panel. Beneath are some of his findings and recommendations:

Stop illicit financial flows through crime: Poaching; drugs, arms and human trafficking; oil and mineral theft; and other forms of crime that generate money contribute to IFFs, sometimes employing the same commercial mechanisms used to evade taxes and customs duties to move the proceeds of these crimes out of African countries.

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Action is needed:

Ensure that investigators responsible for identifying the criminals engaged in these activities are also required, trained and empowered to investigate the financial aspects of these cases, prosecuting those who facilitate the movement and laundering of the proceeds of these crimes as well.

Share information with other African financial intelligence units about cases of people and companies being prosecuted for facilitating the movement and laundering of the proceeds of these crimes so that cross-border illicit activities and patterns can be identified.

Stop illicit financial flows through corruption: Global standards in anti-corruption and anti–money laundering require financial institutions to subject accounts held by certain persons to greater scrutiny and monitoring, including senior government officials, leaders of political parties, executives at state-owned enterprises and others with access to large amounts of state assets and the power to direct them (often called politically exposed persons, or PEP.

South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter said that the revenue collector had profiled a number of high-net-worth individuals who enjoy a ‘luxurious’ lifestyle and demonstrate unexplained wealth when compared to their income.

In a media briefing, Kieswetter, in April 2021, said: Sars has the ability to access a number of databases that track high-ticket items, such as luxury cars and expensive property. The commissioner said that Sars has the ability to access a number of databases that track high-ticket items, such as luxury cars and expensive property.

The revenue collector then does capital reconciliation back to the income statement. The commissioner further contended and alluded that it is often the case that more information can be established from the assets and liabilities of these wealthy individuals, as opposed to the income and expenses that they declare. Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala-Phala farm is a classic case of what was decried by Kieswetter.

He added that in certain cases, a civil investigation into an individual who is under declaring an income, turns into a criminal investigation as the person’s illicit dealings become clear. This is another area that the commissioner must look into very seriously. His principal is involved in game-farming, and by so doing, he is involved in a cover up of money laundering and cleansing of the other criminal activities that we might not known. Game farms pose a big risk to sovereignty of the country and national security in that they have the non- designated points of entry.

It is for this reason that customs officers find it very difficult to be ubiquitous and be at all those entries.

The game farm breeders must be on top of the list because the president has inadvertently exposed the country to such deeds. The whole exercise by the president is money laundering and racketeering.

There is a specific amount of money approved when entering the republic in foreign currencies. I worked at Sars for twelve years. I am conversant with the issues of these transactions. The Sars commissioner must show integrity and salvage that institution and not look away on this matter.

This is a classic case of smuggling of foreign currency that has been committed here. Moreover, Section 6 of exchange control regulations postulates that any person that has in his/her possession foreign currency must declare it within 30 days period.

Customs and Excise stipulate the amount of money for allowances by returning citizens or foreign persons when entering the republic. This money must be signed in a Sars declaration form its $ 10.000 maximum amount.

IOL

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