Johannesburg - In his response to the Public Protector, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s head of Presidential Protection Service, Wally Rhoode, has revealed the roles allegedly played by the President and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob, in the aftermath of the Phala Phala farm robbery where millions of US dollars were stolen.
The Phala Phala farm in Bela-Bela, Limpopo is owned by Ramaphosa where it is reported that five Namibian nationals broke into it and stole an undisclosed amount of US dollars estimated to between $4-million and $8-million on February 9, 2020.
Shortly after the robbery, the men, who were residing in Cape Town at the time, went on a shopping spree buying cars, jewellery and apartments in the Mother City after changing the dollars at a local Chinese-owned forex exchange. Some drove their new flashy cars to Namibia while others remained in Cape Town.
Four sources told Sunday Independent this week that Rhoode “opened a can of worms” in his response to a public protector inquiry and revealed damning information, some of it not even in the public domain.
Rhoode, in his response, reportedly confirms that he drove to “no man’s land” - a neutral place on the borders of the two countries - to meet with some senior members of the Namibian police force on Ramaphosa’s instructions.
The meeting came days after Namibian police arrested one of the alleged robbers, Erkki Shikongo, in Windhoek, the country’s capital, after receiving a tip-off that he was driving a Ford Ranger allegedly bought with the money from the robbery.
Rhoode also revealed to the PP questions that he was accompanied on that trip by Ramaphosa’s adviser, Bejani Chauke.
He added that Namibian President, Geingob, allegedly sent a helicopter to fetch him and Chauke and took them to the state house where they spent a night.
It is believed that more meetings were held at the state house between Rhoode, Chauke and senior Namibian officers including Geingob himself.
At the time, Namibian police were investigating a large amount of cash, believed to have been stolen from Ramaphosa’s farm, deposited in various bank accounts in the country and used to buy luxury vehicles and properties by the men linked to the robbery.
Some of the cash was also allegedly used to bribe government officers who came to know about their source of the bounty.
A confidential report compiled by Nelius Becker, a former head of criminal investigations for Namibia police force, that we reported on earlier, confirmed that there was a secret meeting at “no man’s land” where an unnamed South African official had said that something had happened at Ramaphosa’s farm but that no case was opened with the police.
“Due to the sensitivity of the matter and the envisaged fallout it will create in South Africa, they requested that the matter be handled with discretion,” Becker stated in his report.
Oupa Segalwe for the Public Protector, yesterday confirmed that Rhoode, Ramaphosa and national police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, submitted their responses to their investigators but refused to give more information.
“All we can confirm is that the president responded and so did the national police commissioner. We can’t deal with all other issues as that could compromise the investigation. As we said in our last statement, we want to protect the integrity of the investigation,” Segalwe said.
Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, had sent Ramaphosa 31 questions shortly before the President suspended her and she is currently undergoing a parliamentary inquiry into her fitness to hold office.
Rhoode and Masemola were also sent a list of questions to answer as well.
Sunday Independent has been informed that Masemola admitted, in his response, that state resources were used to conduct a clandestine investigation to apprehend the robbers even though there was no official case opened in South Africa about the robbery at Ramaphosa’s farm.
The robbery became public knowledge when former State Security Agency DG Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa and Rhoode at Rosebank Police Station in Johannesburg in June.
Fraser claims that Ramaphosa gave Rhoode the task of tracing the robbers and that the men were tortured and kidnapped after they were pinged and traced using a state-owned grabber.
Some of the men were traced and arrested at a house in Milnerton, Cape Town where the properly was ransacked including the breaking down of some parts of the ceiling as police under the leadership of Rhoode, using a fictitious drug trafficking case, allegedly tortured them on March 31, 2020.
Sunday Independent has seen photos taken on the day of the arrest where the men have their hands tied from the back and forced to lay on the floor while they were interrogated.
Fraser, in his affidavit to the police, claims that Rhoode instructed Ramaphosa to pay the five robbers R150 000 each not to reveal details of the robbery to the public.
Ramaphosa’s helper at the farm, who allegedly engineered the robbery with her brother after she came across the money concealed in furniture including a mattress, was also paid for her silence and reinstated in her job after she was initially fired after it was revealed that she played a vital role in the robbery, according to Fraser’s affidavit.
Inspector General of the Namibian Police, Sebastian Ndeitunga, last month confirmed that he met a South African official at no man’s land to discuss the robbery at Ramaphosa’s farm.
In a press statement, Ndeitunga, said their investigation was triggered on suspicion of banking transactions from South Africa to Namibia and denied that they did “dirty work” for Ramaphosa.
“The Namibian police force identified individuals, bank accounts and various properties including lodges, houses and vehicles suspected to have been purchased with proceeds of crime and consulted the prosecutor general’s office to consider a preservation order of the assets,” the statement said.
The statement added that South African authorities failed to help them.
But the Department of Justice has denied receiving requests for mutual legal assistance from the police in Namibia around the investigation into the theft at Ramaphosa’s farm.
The alleged mastermind of the Phala Phala robbery, Immanuwela David, who was initially arrested during the raid in Milnerton and allowed to go after surrendering some of his stolen money to Rhoode and his team, was arrested against in Namibia in June 2020 after entering the country illegally by taking a canoe across the Orange River.
The Namibian-born man who also held a South African identity was running away because “things were getting hot.”
David is accused of smuggling $20-million, stolen from Ramaphosa’s farm into Namibia, where allegedly wanted to invest it into real estate business and car dealerships.
David, who is reported to be politically connected, was kept in a Namibia jail until November of the same year and missed his wedding to a South Africa woman that was planned for September the same year.
It is believed that he bought properties in Cape Town and Rustenburg and luxury cars including a Lamborghini and a Mercedes Benz G-Wagon and registered them in someone’s name.
When he was arrested in Namibia, David was found in possession of a TAG Heuer watch worth N$28 000, a Rolex watch worth N$280 000, and a gold chain worth N$163 000 as well as eleven US$100 notes and four cellphones.
He allegedly bribed former National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) CEO Paulus Ngalangi and a police sergeant, Hendrik Nghede, to transport him to Windhoek after illegally entering Namibia. Ngalangi and Nghede were arrested and are expected to go on trial in August.
David pleaded guilty to two charges on November 13, 2020 – for entering Namibia illegally and for failing to declare goods he brought into the country and was ordered to leave the country within 48 hours of his release.
Yesterday Ramaphosa spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, confirmed that the President has “provided a comprehensive response to the office of the public protector that covers all 31 questions that were directed to the President.”
Magwenya refused to answer other questions as they “remain a matter of investigation therefore we cannot comment on them,” he said.
Ramaphosa has officially confirmed that there was a robbery at his farm and that the money came from sale of game, a claim that was denied by his farm manager Hendrik von Wielligh, who claims it was highly unlikely that they keep such large amount of cash at the farm, to the best of his knowledge.
Chauke couldn’t be reached for comment.
Geingob spokesperson, Dr Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari, yesterday denied that Ngeingob had arranged for a helicopter to fetch Rhoode and Chauke near “no man’s land” and that “the allegations that Rhoode and Chauke spent the night at the State House are untrue.”
“President Geingob did not arrange for senior police officers from the Namibian police force to meet with Rhoode and Chauke at the state house. This entire matter was presented to the Namibian authorities as a police matter and was thus dealt with by the Namibian Police and not the Presidency.”
Hengari added that President Geingob has made exhaustive and detailed public statements on the matter, in addition to details released by the Inspector-General of the Namibian Police and the Prosecutor-General.
“It is concerning that your questions are mischief laden in that you suggest that the information you supposedly obtained from sources ‘implicate’ President Geingob. Apart from the fact that no criminal offence is suggested from your questions, the criminal offences allegedly committed in relation to the Phala Phala matter occurred in South Africa.
“To the best of our knowledge, no criminal offence was committed in Namibia, hence it troubles us as to why and how you suggest that President Geingob is ‘implicated’ in this matter. It is perhaps that you seek to sensationalise this case by adding a cross-border element, despite no factual basis justifying this sensation seeking,” he said.