Following revelations that he failed to report the theft of over $4 million in cash from his farm in northern Limpopo province, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing a criminal inquiry.
An affidavit from the country’s former head of intelligence, Arthur Fraser, who has filed a case against Ramaphosa, details the heist. Ramaphosa has not contested the theft, but claims to have reported it to the head of his VIP Protection team, who then failed to report it to the police.
It is prohibited in South Africa not to report a crime, and according to Fraser’s affidavit, Ramaphosa attempted to conceal the theft, which occurred in February 2020 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while he was attending an African Union conference.
Several opposition parties have demanded that the crime be thoroughly investigated, including if the sum of foreign currency reportedly stolen was reported to the South African Revenue Service.
Ramaphosa should explain the circumstances surrounding the theft and why it was not reported to the police, according to the Democratic Alliance, the country’s largest opposition party.
“The president is facing a credibility crisis and cannot hide behind procedural smokescreens to avoid telling South Africans the whole truth about the money stolen from his farm and the ensuing cover-up,” said opposition leader John Steenhuisen in a statement.
The United Democratic Movement, another opposition party, has called for Ramaphosa to take a “leave of absence” while Parliament investigates the incident, claiming that doing so while he is in government would be unwise.
For the first time since the discoveries, Ramaphosa talked publicly about the incident over the weekend, claiming that the money came from purchasing and selling animals on his property.
“I want to restate that I was not involved in any criminal conduct,” Ramaphosa stated on Sunday. “Once again, I guarantee my complete cooperation with any sort of investigation,” he added.
“I’d like to introduce myself as a farmer. I work in both the livestock and game industries. And I buy and sell animals through that firm, which has been declared to Parliament and all over,” he explained.
According to Ramaphosa, the sales are sometimes made in cash and sometimes via wire transfers and what is being described is a clear business transaction of selling animals.
He was speaking at the ruling African National Congress’s Limpopo provincial conference, when his political supporters were re-elected, bolstering his chances of re-election as ANC president at the party’s national conference in December.
Ramaphosa’s supporters have reacted angrily, claiming that the timing of the announcement is intended to sabotage his bid for re-election as party president in December. Former South African intelligence Chief Fraser, who is believed to be sympathetic to former President Jacob Zuma, revealed details about the theft.
Last year, Fraser controversially granted Zuma’s medical parole release, an action that is now being challenged in court as unlawful. Zuma was sentenced to prison last year after being found guilty of violating the Constitutional Court by refusing to participate in a judicial investigation into claims of corruption during his presidency from 2009 to 2018.