President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked the section 89 panel, which was tasked to rule whether there were any grounds to impeach him based on the Phala Phala saga, that in its report, it must conclude that the matter is not to be taken any further.
In a leaked response to the panel, which City Press has seen, Ramaphosa said this was because the evidence brought before the panel by the EFF, UDM, and African Transformation Movement (ATM) was based on “hearsay”.
Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo handed the report of the panel to National Assembly Speaker, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, on Wednesday. Mapisa-Nqakula instituted the panel following a motion of no confidence brought by the ATM following the news of the theft of dollars at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm two years ago. On Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula said the report would be made public in the evening.
Ramaphosa had four charges, which he had to answer to. They included whether he had business interests outside of being the head of state, that he failed to report the theft at his farm and that he tried to conceal it from the police.
In his response to the panel, Ramaphosa said section 89 of the Constitution made it clear that grounds to remove him “could only be a serious violation of the Constitution or the law or serious misconduct”. He said it was “unclear” with the charges he had to answer how he had violated the Constitution or had committed serious misconduct.
The president said all the charges he had been asked to answer had no “merit” and said the panel had also been provided, in addition to the charges, “several baseless allegations”.
On Wednesday, at the handing over of the report, Ngcobo said the panel had asked for additional information from political parties, and it had received volumes of pages and audio recordings from the ATM, UDM, and EFF. He said the information was what made it difficult for the panel to conclude its work on November 17 as had been anticipated.
In his response, Ramaphosa said some of the additional information handed to the panel by the three political parties was information that contained images and facts he did not know, adding that this was about photographs of identity documents and passports of people, people standing next to cars and others who looked like they had been arrested.
He said it was also difficult for him to respond to the ATM’s submissions because it was based on newspaper reports, commentary, and analytical articles.
Dealing with the charge that he had violated the Constitution for having a private business while being the president of the country, Ramaphosa said this was not true.
He said in 2014, following being appointed as deputy president, he had disposed of his business interests that may have given rise to a conflict of interest. He said the remainder of his business interests were also placed in a trust that was managed by independent and professional persons. He told the panel that the registered owner of Phala Phala was Tshivhase Trust, his family trust, and that the farm was the operating entity of Ntaba Nyoni Estate, the close corporation through which the farm operations were run.
On allegations by the EFF that Ramaphosa failed to declare foreign currency from the sale of buffalos from his farm, he said while these were not part of the allegations, he was cooperating with the SA Reserve Bank in that matter.
Earlier in his response, Ramaphosa said a certain Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim from Sudan had paid, in cash, $580 000 (over R9 million) for buffalos from Phala Phala. He said after the sale, the money was kept in a safe in one of the facilities at the farm but was later stored below a cushion of a sofa in a spare bedroom at his private residence on the farm – it was stored there to wait for the manager of the farm to come from leave and then go bank it.
He also said that on the allegations, by the EFF, that he had failed to report the matter to the police, as per the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, there was no duty on him personally to report a theft he did not know of. He said according to the same act, reporting the matter to an official of the directorate for Priority Crime Investigation was sufficient.
“I reported the housebreaking and theft of money from my residence at the farm to a senior police official, General [Wally] Rhoode,” said Ramaphosa.
“It is clear that, by reporting the security breach and the theft to Major-General Rhoode, who holds the rank of major-general in SAPS, and by specifically requesting that Rhoode should attend to the matter, I had no intention of concealing the crime from the SAPS, or at all – charge four - in that, I allegedly gave Rhoode an unlawful instruction to investigate the burglary on my private farm.”
He said he was not in control of the processes that followed after he reported the matter to Rhoode.
The panel’s report will be tabled in the National Assembly next week Tuesday, and members of Parliament will vote, if based on its recommendations, whether any further action needs to be taken. Ramaphosa's response also contained affidavits by his adviser, Bejani Chauke, and Rhoode, who all denied wrongdoing.