Phala Phala farm robbery case resumes in court

Three people who allegedly stole more than half a million dollars from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s game ranch in Limpopo are expected to appear in the Bela Bela Magistrates Court on Friday.

The heist

The suspects are accused of breaking into a house at the Phala Phala Wildlife Farm in February 2020 and making off with $580,000 (about R10 million) in cash. The money was reportedly the proceeds of game sales by the president, who is an avid and well-known game collector and breeder.

The theft was not reported to the police at the time, but was allegedly handled by a presidential bodyguard, who tracked down the suspects and paid them off to keep quiet. However, the matter came to light in 2022, when former State Security Agency boss Arthur Fraser made explosive allegations against Ramaphosa in an affidavit to the Rosebank police.

Fraser claimed that Ramaphosa had evaded paying tax on the sales and had contravened various fiscal and currency control laws. He also accused Ramaphosa of using state resources to cover up the crime and protect his interests.

Ramaphosa has denied the allegations and said he is innocent.

The suspects

The three suspects were arrested in 2023 and charged with theft, housebreaking, and conspiracy to commit housebreaking with intent to steal.

They are Floriana Joseph, who was a domestic worker at the Phala Phala farm, her brother Ndilinasho Joseph, and Imanuwela David, who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the heist.

Floriana and Ndilinasho Joseph are currently out on bail of R5,000 and R10,000, respectively, while David has been denied bail, as the police could not verify his address and the court found him to be a flight risk.

The case last appeared in the Bela Bela Magistrates Court in December, and the accused are due back in the dock again on Friday.

The implications

The case has raised questions about Ramaphosa’s integrity and credibility as the president of the country and the leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

Ramaphosa, who took power in 2018 and won the 2019 general election on an anti-corruption platform, has faced resistance and criticism from his political opponents and some factions within his own party.

The case has also exposed the extent of corruption and mismanagement in the state security sector, which has been accused of being politicised and abused by various actors.

The case could have serious consequences for Ramaphosa’s political future, as he faces a possible impeachment by parliament and a challenge to his leadership of the ANC at a conference next month.

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