SARS tells the DA that it cannot find a declared record of $4-million game cash. Will the President stay if an impeachment committee is set up?
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cash declaration scandal about a dodgy $4-million game purchase got messier on Monday.
The DA said that SARS had responded that it could not find a record of Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa’s purchase of a variety of game from the President’s Phala Phala farm in the summer of 2020.
Responding to a DA access to the information request made in December 2022, SARS deputy CIO Siyabonga Nkabinde said the revenue authority had no record of the dollar declaration.
“On or around 17 January 2023, I commenced engagements with relevant various business units within SARS that I believed may be in the custody of and/or be in possession and/or have knowledge of the record requested and was advised that pursuant to the search for the record in various SARS Passenger Processing Systems the record could not be found and/or may not be in existence.”
The Phala Phala scandal has just become much messier for Ramaphosa, who last week took another bloody nose when the Constitutional Court denied him direct access to have the Section 89 parliamentary inquiry report invalidated. That report found he had a case to answer in what would amount to an impeachment hearing. (Section 89 is the removal of a President clause in the Constitution. This is a handy guide.)
Read in Daily Maverick: “EFF and DA call for ad hoc committee to probe Phala Phala saga after Concourt rules against Ramaphosa”
The court did not make a finding on the merits of Ramaphosa’s application, but the refusal of direct access means the head of state must now approach the high court.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said he would enter these court proceedings to add the new SARS information on undeclared funds. Mustafa told eNCA’s Annika Larsen that he had declared the massive cash he was carrying to SARS on arrival in South Africa in 2020. He had intended to buy property but was directed to Phala Phala to accept buffalo and other game instead by someone he met while staying at the Lost City at Sun City.
“The DA will once again table a motion with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to establish an ad hoc committee on the Phala Phala scandal to bring this matter to… the National Assembly.
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“… the Phala Phala scandal does not begin and end with the President, and as such, it necessitates an ad hoc committee that will have the full powers to summon and investigate Cabinet ministers, law enforcement bodies and other state institutions allegedly involved in this cover-up,” said Steenhuisen.
Either the court case or the committee hearing risk tying Ramaphosa up in a long and dirty battle over the scandal that has tarnished him.
Originally put into the public domain by former spy boss Arthur Fraser in June 2022, the game sale raises red flags that Ramaphosa did not declare the cash sales and that after the money was stolen by staff, his secret police Praetorian guard undertook an off-the-books investigation and may even have paid off the perpetrators to keep it hush-hush.
When the Section 189 report landed in December 2022, Ramaphosa wanted to resign but was persuaded to fight another day by supporters. His chief supporter was Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who got the ANC at Parliament to vote to quash a parliamentary inquiry. Now Ramaphosa must wrestle control of Eskom and energy policy from Mantashe, putting him in choppy political waters. The President does not swim well in anything but calm seas.
The confirmation that Hamza declared no cash or that the declaration could not be found raises the spectre of a long fight Ramaphosa may no longer have the stomach for.
The President’s biographer Anthony Butler wrote in Business Day that EFF leader Julius Malema may be deputy president come 2024, with Paul Mashatile taking over from Ramaphosa. DM
This article was amended at 17.45pm to clarify SARS’s position.