Phala Phala: Namibian mutual assistance bombshell

President Cyril Ramaphosa can’t seem to catch a break on the Phala Phala robbery.

President Cyril Ramaphosa can’t seem to catch a break on the Phala Phala robbery.

Published Feb 19, 2023


Johannesburg - Government entities dealing with the Phala Phala investigation lied over communications with their Namibian counterparts.

The Sunday Independent, our sister newspaper, can today reveal that our report on the legal letter sent to the Department of Justice on July 23, 2020, asking for mutual assistance was swept under the rug.

Today we can exclusively reveal the contents of the letter from the Ministry of Justice in Namibia to South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. This comes despite Lamola's spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, in June 2022 having said: “We can categorically state that, to date, there is no official record of this specific request.”

The letter seen by Sunday Independent, dated July 23, 2020, states that it is a “request for mutual legal assistance in a criminal matter from the Republic of South Africa: suspected money laundering offences in contravention of the prevention of the Organised Crime Act”.

The letter named the alleged mastermind of the Phala Phala farm robbery, Imanuwela David, and his accomplices, Petrus Afrikaner and Erkki Shikongo, as the “subjects”.

These were some of the five men who were named by former spy boss Arthur Fraser when he opened a case of defeating the ends of justice, kidnapping and torture against President Cyril Ramaphosa and the head of his Presidential Protection Service, General Wally Rhoode, as the Namibians who stole an undisclosed amount of American dollars, estimated to be between $4 million and $8m, from the president’s farm.

The letter said the three men “made electronic fund transfers (EFTs) to various individuals’ bank accounts in Namibia”.

“According to the information provided to the Namibia Police Force, the subjects are alleged to have committed theft in South Africa,” the letter stated.

The letter also revealed the EFT payments the men made from their South African bank accounts into Namibian bank accounts:

Shikongo transferred:

  • N$1000 000 (R1m) from his South African account on March 11, 2020.
  • N$500 000 (R500 000) to an account held in the name of Tafelelo Technologies.
  • N$110 000 on March 6, 2020, to an account held in the name of Immanuel Shaduka.
  • N$233 700 between April and May 2020 into an account held in the name of Ndapandula Aipanda.

Afrikaner transferred:

  • N$500 000 on February 26, 2020, into an account held in the name of Lovisa Kapenangolo
  • N$20 000 on March 25, 2020, into an account held in the name of Hafeni Avula.
  • N$1 200 000 into an account held in the name of Avula.
  • N$50 000 into an account held in the name of Hilaraia Ndapewa between February 19 and June 11, 2020.
  • N$2 900 000 between March 11 and 23, 2020, into an account held in the name of Clement Shikongo.
  • N$500 000 into an account held in the name of Ana Bela on March 23, 2020.

David transferred:

  • N$86 500 into an account held in the name of Ndapandula Aipanda.

The letter also revealed in detail withdrawals the men made in Namibia using different references including Three Jackpots and Amandla Guest House. It also added their investigation revealed that some of “the beneficiaries that received money purchased properties”.

The letter stated that “in the light of the above investigations, the Namibian Police Force requests mutual legal assistance through your ministry, from the Republic of South Africa, to obtain the following listed evidential information”:

  • Obtain opening account documents as well as the bank statements for accounts of Shikongo, Afrikaner and David in South Africa. Kindly consider the period under review as 1 December 2019 to 22 July 2020.
  • The relevant South African authorities to provide information on the origin of the funds EFTd to Namibia.
  • The relevant South African authorities to provide information on whether the subjects have committed felonies. If they committed felonies in South Africa kindly also provide us with the pertinent documents.
  • The relevant South African authorities are to provide an affidavit indicating any employment information, income and salary information as well as any business interest the subjects may have.

The letter added that “the requested information is required as a matter of urgency”. But this letter for mutual legal assistance was ignored and its existence later denied by the South African authorities.

A former employee ofthe Department of Justice said: “This request was deliberately ignored to protect President Cyril Ramaphosa from the Phala Phala farm robbery scandal. The letter explicitly states that the men committed theft in South Africa and they have been transferring huge sums of money into Namibian bank accounts. Any government that is serious about fighting crime should have jumped on this request.

“I told you in June last year that I personally received the phone call from my Namibian counterpart who was frustrated by our silence regarding this mutual legal assistance and I was ignored too when I raised the issue in our office. That’s when I started to smell a rat.”

Phiri on Friday tried to justify the move by saying that officials in the department did not know who these men were as no case had been opened against them in South Africa.

And he later changed his tune to say the letter was filed under Afrikaner, who is less known of the five men implicated in the Phala Phala theft.

“One of the reasons we initially stated that we didn’t have a letter of mutual legal assistance is because we were searching our files and our systems under Imanuwela David and we didn’t pick up anything. But later the letter was found filed under Afrikaner, who is the first subject mentioned in the letter,” said Phiri.

He denied that the letter was deliberately ignored to obscure the scandal and protect Ramaphosa.

“The request which the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development received was not specifically in relation to Mr David Immanuwela only as intimated by our sister nation’s police force. It is not correct that there was no response from South Africa on the requested mutual legal assistance in the case involving Mr David. The Central Authority of the Republic of South Africa has transmitted correspondence through the diplomatic channels to set the record straight with the Namibian authorities.”

Phiri insisted that the request could not be located because the file had been opened under a different name.

“The request related to an investigation of docket Noordoewer CR 14/06/2020, in which Mr David was one of three suspects. The other two suspects are Messrs Petrus Afrikaner and Erikki Shikango.”

But the request seen by Sunday Independent paints a different picture.

Namibian Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa confirmed to Sunday Independent in June last year that she was the one who advised the local police to seek mutual legal assistance from South Africa.

“They wanted my office to prepare a preservation order but there was some outstanding information missing from South Africa and I advised them to contact their South African counterparts for these missing details but in the end, they came back empty-handed,” Imalwa said.

The Phala Phala farm theft made international headlines in June last year when Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa and Rhoode at the Rosebank police station in Johannesburg.

Fraser said Ramaphosa and Rhoode failed to report the robbery at any police station. Fraser said the thieves, who were all Namibians based in Cape Town, were traced and apprehended and allegedly tortured to reveal where they had stashed the stolen money.

Fraser claims the men were paid R150 000 for their silence and released after handing over their loot.

Sunday Independent