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By Lunga Simelane


Third suspect arrest expected in Phala Phala Farm theft case

Charges against them range from conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, housebreaking with intent to steal and money laundering.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has cited confidentiality on reasons they would oppose bail for accused one in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm burglary.

Facing charges of housebreaking and theft, the suspects – Imanuwela David, 39, and 30-year-old Froliana Joseph – accused of stealing $580 000 (about R10.6 million) at Ramaphosa’s Limpopo game farm in February 2020, made their first appearance at the Bela Bela Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Phala Phala theft

David and Joseph, believed to be Namibians residing in South Africa legally, were arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Charges against them range from conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal and theft, housebreaking with intent to steal and money laundering.

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According to NPA Limpopo regional spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi, the investigations revealed that on 1 January, 2020, the accused persons conspired to commit housebreaking with intent to steal at the farm, and on 8 January, 2020 David and two others entered Stokkiesdraai farm believing it was Phala Phala.

“They broke and entered but nothing was stolen. The following night they located the Phala Phala farm, where they broke, entered and stole $580 000,” said Malabi-Dzhangi.

With the matter postponed to Thursday for accused one, David, to arrange for legal representation and a formal bail application, the NPA was considering allowing one of the suspects to be freed on bail. Malabi-Dzhangi said they were unlikely to oppose bail for accused two, Joseph.

“However, for accused one, we are still gathering more information. The results will determine if we will oppose (bail) or not,” she said.

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Asked exactly what information was the NPA looking for, Malabi-Dzhangi said it was “confidential”.

David is believed to be the mastermind behind the theft of the hard currency and is suspected to have been taken to Namibia four months after the crime. Joseph was a cleaner, employed on a temporary basis at Phala Phala lodge and allegedly found the dollars hidden in the famed sofas.

The Hawks indicated the arrest of a third suspect was imminent in the ongoing investigation.

Ramaphosa innocent

Ramaphosa encountered political pressure and came under fire after former spy boss Arthur Fraser filed a complaint with the police in June last year, alleging the president had covered up the theft of $580 000 from his farm.

Ramaphosa has claimed to have received the $580 000 from Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa as payment for livestock the president sold to him. Fraser also alleged Ramaphosa’s head of security, Wally Rhoode, and his advisor, Bejani Chauke, had tried to conceal the incident.

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In August, the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing on whether he broke foreign exchange control rules since the cash stolen from his farm was in dollars. The report found Ramaphosa did not violate the exchange control regulations.

According to the Reserve Bank, the conclusion was reached on the basis that Ramaphosa’s company, which manages the Phala Phala game farm, was not “legally entitled” to the foreign currency. It stated the president or Ntaba Nyoni Estate had no legal obligation to declare the cash as required by law because the buffalo was never delivered to Mustafa.

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In June, the Office of the Public Protector also cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing. Public protector Kholeka Gcaleka upheld similar findings from her preliminary report in March, which concluded there was no proof he was actively involved in the running of game farm or had received remuneration.

– lungas@citizen.co.za

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