Phala Phala theft case postponed for further investigation

The case against three suspects implicated in the Phala Phala farm theft has been postponed to April, allowing for further investigations.

The suspects appeared before the Bela Bela magistrate’s court in Limpopo on Friday. They face various charges related to the incident that has stirred significant public interest and controversy.

Floriana, a domestic worker employed at the farm at the time of the burglary, and her sibling, Ndilinasho Joseph, are accused of housebreaking and theft.

Imanuwela David, identified as the alleged mastermind behind the operation, faces two counts of housebreaking, one count of conspiracy to commit housebreaking, and money-laundering.

Foreign currency stolen

Despite his intention to plead not guilty, David was denied bail in December after being deemed a flight risk by the court.

The Phala Phala farm theft, also known as the Farmgate scandal, occurred on February 9 2020. The burglary led to the theft of foreign currency.

Former spy boss Arthur Fraser unveiled the theft, reporting the matter to the police.

He alleged that the burglary resulted in the loss of about $4-million (about R60-million) in undeclared foreign currency, although reports have suggested that the amount stolen was closer to $580 000.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the incident and has sought judicial review of a 2022 report by a parliamentary panel that accused him of “serious misconduct”.

The Reserve Bank also conducted its own investigations; however, they were met with criticism of credibility and trustworthiness.

Report cleared Ramaphosa

The report, published in August 2023, cleared the president of any misconduct linked to the theft of foreign currency from his farm.

However, political parties including the EFF, ActionSA,, and the African Transformation Movement dismissed the report’s conclusions and declared plans to contest them.

“We firmly believe the SARB [South African Reserve Bank] investigation is another attempt to cover up President Ramaphosa’s involvement in the burglary,” said ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba, expressing scepticism.

He raised questions about how such a substantial sum of money could be hidden without raising suspicion from financial agencies, stating that his party is dismayed by SARB’s governor Lesetja Kganyago’s decision to keep the Phala Phala report private.

Potential tax evasion

EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo challenged the central bank’s assertion that there was “no perfected transaction”, arguing that this does not absolve Ramaphosa of potential tax evasion and money-laundering.

Thambo accused the Reserve Bank of protecting the president at the expense of struggling middle-class citizens and pledged to challenge the alleged imbalances in court.

“Our foreign exchange laws must not be abused in an attempt to protect Ramaphosa from prosecution simply because the establishment prefers him,” Thambo said.

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