Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has provided more clarity on South Africa’s correspondence with Namibia in relation to the Phala Phala farm theft scandal.
Government was under fire as well after it emerged last month that Namibian authorities had made contact with their South African authorities regarding the $4 million theft at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm in Limpopo.
The theft, which took place in February 2020, came into the public light after former State Security Agency (SSA) director-general Arthur Fraser laid criminal charges against Ramaphosa for the crime not being reported to the South African Police Service (Saps).
At the time, Fraser alleged that, among other things, the South African police was involved in the alleged cover-up of the theft.
This was further excaberated when the Namibian Police Force (Nampol) revealed that they met with the South African police at “no man’s land” on 19 June 2020 following the arrest of lmanuwela David, who is one of the suspects connected to the theft.
David, who was found in possession of 1,100 US dollars – among other things, was arrested after entering Namibia illegally on 13 June.
He, however, returned to South Africa in November after paying a fine for unlawfully entering Namibia.
According to Nampol Inspector-General, Sebastian Ndeitunga, Namibian authorities had made a formal request, via letter, to Lamola’s office, asking confirmation of the alleged theft at Ramaphosa’s farm.
Mutual legal assistance
While Lamola initially denied receiving the letter, he said during a media briefing on Monday that it was “not correct” that the South African government did not communicate with the Namibian authorities.
“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 [MLA] 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,” the minister said.
Lamola explained that the Namibian authorities’ request had been referred to the NPA’s Specialised Commercial Crime Unit (SCCU) to ensure that the correspondence did not involve foreign bribery.
The SCCU, however, could not immediately process it as it required additional information from Namibian authorities.
Lamola said since 1 September 2021, the authorities in Namibia have not sent an amended request back to South Africa after Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) had reached out to them.
“The Chief Directorate: International Legal Relations was previously requested to confirm whether a request for mutual legal assistance relating to Mr David Imanuwela had been received from the authorities in Namibia,” he said.
“The request could not be located, as the file was 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 Erkki Shikango,” Lamola added.
The minister, therefore, indicated they were still waiting for amended request, further saying he was in the dark about the Phala Phala matter.
‘Not in order’
Meanwhile, Department of Justice, director-general Doctor Mashabane also commented on the matter saying the Namibian government’s request for MLA was “not in order”.
Mashabane said this was the reason why Lamola was not aware of developments in the saga.
“The minister ordinarily would not know about the request until such a time that the Central Authority is satisfied that the request is in order and meets the requirements then we will process an internal memorandum. Without that then the minister will not know anything about that process,” he said.
He further said “the same will apply” to National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi as she will only get to information on the matter “once documents are finalised”.
Mashabane added that the department wanted to put it on record that the matter was not with South African authorities as a statement by the Namibian authorities claimed.
“It is not true that the matter is sitting with us because wrote back raising the matters and we even reminded [about it],” he concluded.
Batohi said the NPA was currently not involved in the Phala Phala investigation, as it is being handled by the Hawks.
“We will deal with the matter as appropriate with at the time, but just to say this matter will be dealt with like any other matter,” she said.
The Hawks received the docket into the theft from Saps in June and has already met with Fraser to provide more details about the theft.