Red checked shirt from gentleman-farmer, beige pants held firmly by a belt and off-road shoes, Cyril Ramaphosa poses next to a herd of ankolés. A file photo published by Farmers Weekly, South African Farmers’ Weekly. Because before coming to power in 2018, and in parallel with his investments in the mines, Cyril Ramaphosa had made a name for himself by raising cattle.
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In 2004, he introduced the prestigious Ankolée breed from Uganda to South Africa. President Yoweri Museveni sold him cows and bulls to launch his herd. The beast is renowned for its milk, meat and leather. Impressive, with its huge half-moon horns facing the sky, the ankolé seduces the owners of private reserves who seek to impress their visitors. Cyril Ramaphosa is passionate about this sacred cow and dedicated a photography book to it in 2017. Today, his opponents wear t-shirts bearing the image of this animal, accusing him of having hidden millions of dollars from the sale of his herds.
Because this passion pays off big for the president-breeder. Cyril Ramaphosa sells his luxury animals at auction, online or from Phala Phala, one of his farms, located in the province of Limpopo, north of Pretoria. Among his buyers, he can count on his brother-in-law, the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe. The boss of African football thus paid one of them 120,000 euros, in March 2022.
Ramaphosa has opened its trade to other species, often rare, such as black roan (antelope), African buffaloes or wagyu oxen. A juicy business that had never been questioned until last June, the problem now being whether the money generated by these sales has been duly declared.
On June 1, 2022, a man named Arthur Fraser filed a complaint against Cyril Ramaphosa. He is close to former President Jacob Zuma, of whom he was the head of the intelligence services between 2016 and 2018. But the mandates of the spy and Zuma ended when Cyril Ramaphosa pushed the latter to resign and replaced him as president.
When Zuma goes into forced retirement, Fraser is reinstated in the prison administration. In June 2021, the former head of state was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for contempt of justice. A quick trip to the cell and then leaves. After two months of detention, his faithful Arthur Fraser released him for medical reasons. This decision is currently being challenged in court.
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Today, Arthur Fraser no longer exercises any mandate, but he continues to frolic in the circles of intelligence and security. He claims that he is regularly presented with sensitive documents. This is why he asks the police to investigate the head of state for suspicion of money laundering and corruption, following “information, documents, photos and videos that have been brought to [son] be careful, ”he argues in his testimony. To those who doubt the reliability of his tips, Arthur Fraser provides the precise timing of the surveillance cameras that filmed the intrusion into Cyril Ramaphosa’s estate. The leak of these documents would have cause for concern for the Head of State.
On February 9, 2020, after 10 p.m., burglars cut the fence that delimits Phala Phala’s farm. The president is traveling to Ethiopia, at the summit of the African Union. Coming from the neighboring township, the team of thieves does not advance blindly. A domestic employee would have put them in the scent: a large sum of money is hidden in the furniture of the president. Up to $4 million stuffed under a couch mattress, they say. Instead, $600,000 was stolen from a cupboard, according to the News24 media.
Outside of any legal framework
After the discovery of the burglary, Cyril Ramaphosa informs Major General Wally Rhoode, in charge of presidential protection. According to Fraser, the head of state entrusts a secret mission to Wally Rhoode: to investigate, find the suspects and recover the money in all discretion.
It is the opacity of the process that feeds the accusations made by Arthur Fraser: not having formally declared the burglary to the police; interrogating suspects outside of any legal framework, which amounts to kidnapping; having bribed the household staff to keep quiet (more than 8,500 euros offered to each); having used public means to carry out a private investigation as far as Namibia, where some of the suspects are from. And, finally, having concealed foreign currency of suspicious origin. “I realize that it is not trivial to accuse a sitting president of criminal acts, but I the do in the interests of our justice and our Constitution,” writes Arthur Fraser from the innocent pen of a whistleblower.
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The day after the complaint, the presidency confirms the burglary and defends itself. Primoit is the proceeds from the sale of livestock that have been stolen and it is not money laundering. Secondlythe burglary was declared to the general-major who is attached to the South African police. Thirdly, the criminal behavior charges are unfounded and the president is cooperating with investigators. Eight different authorities now have their noses in the file, according to Ramaphosa. If he says he is ready to answer questions, he refuses to speak outside the framework of the investigations.
The Head of State remained silent in the face of the integrity committee of his party, the African National Congress (ANC). The mediator of the Republic also tried her luck. On June 7, Busisiwe Mkhwebane opened an investigation and addressed 31 questions to Cyril Ramaphosa. The next day, she was dismissed from her post.
Admittedly, he is a contested personality, widely criticized for his incompetence and close to the ousted president, Jacob Zuma. She was already threatened by an impeachment procedure launched by Parliament. But his hasty dismissal raises questions. A court of justice overturned this decision, deeming it “inappropriate”. A setback for Ramaphosa, who gives the impression of slipping away.
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On August 30, he was not physically present at the National Assembly to face the deputies. Via a video link, the president says he reserves his explanations for the competent authorities. “While it is obvious that some people and organizations are trying to take advantage of this situation, I think the best response is to allow justice to take its course,” he argues.
Faced with the malaise, the Phala Phala affair was put back on the agenda during a question and answer session on Thursday, September 29. Parliamentarians are still trying to find out why Ramaphosa did not simply file a complaint. The president, who recites his defence, fails to convince.
An air of deja vu
Since the outbreak of the scandal, the National Assembly has been in turmoil and the opposition is shooting the president on sight. Members of the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party disrupt parliamentary sessions until they are expelled military hand for contempt. Their leader, Julius Malema, calls the head of state a “kidnapper”, referring to the interrogations carried out by his henchmen.
An atmosphere reminiscent of the Zuma years and the Nkandla affair. The former president had been pinned for having financed the work of his private residence in Nkandla with public funds. Julius Malema’s EFF was happy to turn every appearance of Zuma in front of Parliament into a demonstration demanding his departure. “Give the money back,” they sang in 2014.
Zuma had survived impeachment proceedings, but the scandal plagued the rest of his term. Cyril Ramaphosa could suffer the same fate. Self-proclaimed herald of the fight against corruption, the head of state now finds himself on the grill. But the ANC continues to unite behind its president. Like a herd of ankolés, the party in power knows that we must stay together to to hope to survive.