Imanuwela David says he and his partners in crime ‘just walked in’ to Cyril Ramaphosa’s home but only took $800,000
An explosive recorded interview with the alleged mastermind behind the hard-currency heist at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bushveld farm has thrown new light on the burglary that has shaken his presidency.
In the clip, which the Sunday Times has listened to, a man purporting to be Imanuwela David tells how easy it was for him and his gang to enter Phala Phala.
The burglary, which took place in in February 2020, first came to public attention when former spy boss Arthur Fraser laid charges of bribery, money-laundering and defeating the ends of justice against the president on June 1. Fraser this week said he had given more information to the police. Several attempts to reach David were unsuccessful.
Ramaphosa has admitted that there was a burglary and that his head of security, Gen Wally Rhoode, co-operated with police in reporting the matter. It is now being investigated by the Hawks, with Ramaphosa’s co-operation. Government insiders said Ramaphosa would remain silent on the matter to allow Fraser to furnish evidence to support his claims.
David tells his interviewer that he and his cousin Eric, or Erkki Shikongo, were alerted to the stash of cash hidden in a sofa at Ramaphosa’s farm by one of the president’s employees.
“She’s a cleaner. She came across a sofa full of US money, dollars. Then she sent a picture to my cousin. Erik said you must be lying, take a sample and bring it. She took a sample of 200 notes.”
David says that after establishing it was not counterfeit, they decided to break into the president’s home.
“It was easy,” David boasts in the recording.
“We just walked inside… there was no armed robbery… We took out the window and went inside. We went to the sofa. It’s a leather sofa.”
David says the woman advised them not to take all the money, so they only took $800,000 (about R12.8m today).
“That lady said ‘don’t take everything because you’re dealing with the president… they gonna f**k you up and they gonna f**k me up’. We took about $800,000. We are four — four guys and a lady.”
He says the money, in bundles of $100,000, was wrapped in plastic.
“I got my share of three [hundred thousand dollars]. The guy took and the other guy took. Then we gave that lady two [hundred thousand dollars].”
David then describes a police raid at his home in Milnerton, Cape Town.
That lady said ‘don’t take everything because you’re dealing with the president… they gonna f**k you up and they gonna f**k me up’. We took about $800,000. We are four — four guys and a lady
“Guys came with police. They just took the Rolex, they beat us and … they asked ‘where’s the money?’ They took out the whole ceiling of the house. They said they want the money. We said ‘no, the money was spent’… then they throw us in the bush and leave us.”
He is asked in the recording about how he spent the money, some of it apparently in Cape Town night clubs.
David relates one incident, on his birthday, when he claims to have handed $10,000 to Joel Booysen, the son of alleged underworld boss Jerome “Donkie” Booysen, to buy alcohol.
In the clip David disputes claims that they stole a larger amount from the farm — Fraser put the figure at more than $4m — and that his cut was R20m.
“In the newspapers [they say] the money is $7m. But it was not like that. You cannot be stupid to carry money like that you go to the country [Namibia]…”
“I took three bundles [of $100,000]… So it comes to R4.5m-R5m.”
David’s interviewer seems well informed about the case, and sometimes breaks in to correct him.
Although the Sunday Times has not been able to independently verify the identities of the two people speaking on the tape, David relates the buildup to the heist, its execution and the aftermath in such detail that it suggests only David, who was identified by Fraser as the main perpetrator, could be speaking. Details of what he says are corroborated by independently verified timelines.
The interviewer, also not identified, shows a strong interest in how much of the money is left, and his inside knowledge of the affair suggests he is very much in the loop.
At one point he says to David: “Now they’re following [indistinct] because they know you’ve been spending so much here, so much there. So again it’s not like it’s hearsay…[indistinct] been watching you to see how and what.
“I’m asking you again very simple. How much have you got left? $50,000? Or $100,000?”
Other information David offers without prompting tallies with what is known about how he fled to Namibia and was helped to cross the Orange River to avoid border posts, which were in any event closed at the time due to the Covid lockdown.
The details of the raid on his home have been corroborated by at least one of his partners in crime to whom the Sunday Times has spoken.
It is apparent that the interviewer has the inside track on the story, down to knowing from the Namibian authorities that David had planned to invest R20m in a property development “that went up very quickly”.
We just walked inside… there was no armed robbery… We took out the window and went inside. We went to the sofa. It’s a leather sofa
Yesterday the department of justice said it was checking reports that the South African government ignored “a request for information” from the Namibian government after David was arrested in that country.
The prosecutor-general of Namibia, Martha Imalwa, this week told the Sunday Times that she had advised Namibian law enforcement agencies to seek clarity from their South African counterparts following the arrest of David in June 2020 but they had received no information to date.
She said David was charged and convicted for an immigration offence and for being in possession of undeclared goods, for which he paid fines amounting to N$20,000 and avoided spending 36 months in prison.
When David was arrested at a hotel in Windhoek for entering Namibia illegally, he was found in possession of $1,100 and N$300 in cash, a TAG Heuer watch worth N$28,000, a Rolex watch worth N$280,000, a gold chain worth N$163,000 and four cellphones.
“It seems there were monies paid into [bank] accounts of certain people who are in Namibia and a property was then bought with the money which was deposited into the accounts,” Imalwa said.
“The money was coming from South Africa and that is why we wanted to know if there was any offence committed in South Africa. We wanted to know if there was a reported case in South Africa because we could apply our Poca [Prevention of Organised Crime Act].
“If there was an offence committed, such as theft, we could have charged him. I can’t say there was no co-operation, you can’t expect a country to respond quickly. You can’t say that the other country delayed the matter as well.”
Justice minister Ronald Lamola’s spokesperson, Chrispin Phiri, said: “We have noted reports about the request for information from the Namibian authorities. We can confirm that there are ongoing engagements through the diplomatic channels to establish if there is a record of the request.”
The Sunday Times can reveal that residences belonging to Shikongo and Urbanus Shaumbwako, who are also named in Fraser’s affidavit, were raided a month after the robbery.
According to Fraser, Shikongo, Shaumbwako, David, Petrus Muhekeni and Petrus Afrikaner broke into the main farm house near Bela Bela in Limpopo and stole an “undisclosed” amount of dollars which he said was estimated to be between $4m and $8m.
Western Cape police spokesperson Col Andre Traut referred questions to the Hawks, whose spokesperson Brig Thandi Mbambo in turn referred questions back to the police. “That raid [on David’s home] was not done by the Hawks, SAPS should be able to respond. We only investigated this case that has just been opened.”
A senior insider in the Hawks told the Sunday Times that the unit asked Fraser for clarification of various aspects of his affidavit.
“Ours is to systematically search for the truth and each aspect has to be closely investigated so that we determine if anything can be turned into evidence if it is relevant to the matter,” the source said.
“Hearsay evidence can only be provisionally admitted in court if the originator becomes available. We also have to test the authenticity of the things that have been submitted as evidence, authenticity becomes very important. One has to also be careful not to be misdirected.”
Another source with knowledge of the Hawks case said the interview with Fraser was about clarification, as questions had been raised about some of the supporting documents the former spy boss submitted. Of particular interest was a picture of David posing in front of a VW Tiguan, which he posted on his Facebook page on September 22 2018, more than a year before the Phala Phala burglary.