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Ramaphosa appears before ANC integrity committee

….but refuses to speak about Phala Phala robbery

President Cyril Ramaphosa has refused to answer questions before the ANC integrity committee over the Phala Phala farmgate scandal.

Ramaphosa finally appeared before the governing party’s ethics body in Houghton on Tuesday to explain the alleged robbery at his Phala Phala game farm in Bela Bela in Limpopo in 2020.

He told the committee members that he had been instructed by his lawyers and the Office of the Public Protector not to say anything until the investigations were concluded, City Press has learnt.

His appearance before the committee came just days before the ANC’s national policy conference started at Nasrec in Johannesburg on Friday, and almost two months since he promised he would speak to the committee after former State Security Agency director general Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against him over the Phala Phala robbery.

Up to $4 million stashed in couches was allegedly stolen from the game farm. Ramaphosa has been under pressure to explain his possession of the foreign currency and why it was hidden in furniture.

City Press learnt that on Tuesday, some members of the integrity committee felt “undermined” and insisted that there was nothing stopping Ramaphosa from accounting to the body, but others defended him. He was eventually let off the hook.

A Luthuli House insider said that one of the reasons the committee may have decided to treat Ramaphosa with kid gloves was because “many of the members believed there was no suitable alternative to Ramaphosa within the party if any sanction, including a suspension, was to be imposed against him”.

The ANC’s elders were also wary about the party facing the possibility of losing the general elections for the first in 2024 and laboured under the view that even with the Phala Phala cloud over his head, Ramaphosa was still the party’s best bet.

Fraser opened the case at the Rosebank Police Station on June 1, including allegations of police involvement in the search and torture of the suspects and a subsequent cover-up of the 2020 incident.

In the affidavit, Fraser asked the police to investigate Ramaphosa, Presidential Protection Unit head Major General Wally Rhoode, and the police’s crime intelligence unit members for money laundering, contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and corruption, in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

While Rhoode had responded to the list of questions suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane sent to him via the office of the National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola, Ramaphosa had sought a 30-day extension from July 18. But a subpoena threat from acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka forced him to comply with the deadline, albeit four days later.

City Press reported on Monday that Gcaleka had warned Ramaphosa that a public disclosure of his Phala Phala answers would jeopardise the office’s investigation. Ramaphosa’s answers to the 31 questions were due to be attached to the court record dealing with the legality of Mkhwebane’s suspension but Gcaleka disrupted the plans.

Court records are generally considered public documents, unless the court allows them to be sealed, as happened in 2019 when the details of Ramaphosa’s 2017 ANC presidential election donors were hidden from public view.

This is a developing story.

–News24

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