Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Phala Phala scandal: Ramaphosa cleared by Public Protector

It was found that the president did not contravene the Executive Ethics Code.

The Office of the Public Protector has cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of wrongdoing in the Phala Phala farm scandal.

The Public Protector investigated the 2020 burglary at the president’s farm in Waterberg, Limpopo, following complaints lodged by Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader Vuyo Zungula and two members of the public.

The investigation looked into the conduct of Ramaphosa, his head of security Wally Rhoode, his advisor Bejani Chauke, national police commissioner Fannie Masemola and others.

‘Not substantiated’

Releasing a final report into the matter on Friday, Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka upheld similar findings from her preliminary report in March, which concluded that there was no proof Ramaphosa was actively involved in the running of Phala Phala or had received remuneration.

The Public Protector previously concluded in the preliminary report that Ramaphosa appropriately declared his interests in companies and a trust owns the Phala Phala farm, among other properties, and that he had fulfilled his obligation to report the burglary to the police.

It was, therefore, found that Ramaphosa did not contravene the Executive Ethics Code.

“Considering the evidence in its entirety and the application of the law, there is no basis to exalt such deliberations to a degree where it can be held that there existed a real or potential conflict of interests on the part of the president regarding his duty as the head of Cabinet and his interests in game and cattle farming at Phala Phala farm in violation of the code,” Gcaleka said during a media briefing on Friday.

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She explained that despite Ramaphosa’s admission to having other financial interests, this did not mean the president undertook paid work outside his office.

“Accordingly, the allegation that the president improperly and in violation of the provisions of the Executive Ethics Code exposed himself to any risk of a conflict between his constitutional duties and obligations and his private interests arising from or affected by his alleged paid work at Phala Phala farm is not substantiated,” the acting public protector added.

The Chapter 9 institution could not investigate criminal matters that fall within the scope of the Hawks, who were also investigating the farm burglary, such as how much was stolen.

The $580 000 was taken, according to the president.

Former State Security Agency (SSA) director-general, Arthur Fraser, brought the Phala Phala saga to light when he reported the matter to the police in June 2022.

Cover allegations / Nambia trip

There were also allegations of a cover-up of the burglary as a case of housebreaking and theft was only opened with the South African Police Service (Saps) in August 2022.

According to evidence, Ramaphosa reported the security breach to Rhoode a day after the incident at the farm.

Steenhuisen, in his submission to the Public Protector, had stated that the president had authorised the police to unlawful apprehend the suspects as per Fraser’s allegations.

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But Gcaleka rejected this suggestion.

“Mr Steenhuisen did not furnish any evidence to support this contention,” she said, adding that the office could not find any evidence, so no finding can be made.

She said the deployment of Presidential Protection Services’ (PPS) officers at Ramaphosa’s private residence following the theft did not amount to an abuse of power.

Watch the briefing:

The acting public protector further found that Rhoode with the assistance of Sergeant Hlulani Rekhoto and two other individuals who are not police members had “acted improperly” in investigating the crime without a case having been registered.

However, the office concluded that there was no link between Rhoode and Chauke’s trip to Namibia in June 2020 and the investigation that was conducted by the PPS.

Namibian authorities previously revealed that they met with the South African police following the arrest of one of the suspects connected to the Phala Phala theft.

This was later denied by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola.

Meanwhile, Gcaleka gave Masemola 60 days to take action against Rhoode, Rekhoto for their involvement in the Phala Phala saga.

“Within 90 ninety calendar days from the date of receipt of this report, develop an appropriate PPS directive, instruction, policy or such other prescript within the statutory powers vested in the national commissioner in terms of section 11 of the Saps Act and section 207(2) of the Constitution, directing how the PPS members must manage crimes reported directly to them by the VIP’s under their protection.

“The Saps are to provide a report to the Public Protector on the implementation of the remedial action within 60 calendar days from the date of this report,” she said.

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