Phala Phala: Details emerge on how cops tracked elusive Imanuwela David after R10 million theft at Ramaphosa’s farm

Police noticed the beard on Imanuwela David’s face, which they had noticed in his pictures, before they arrested him in Rustenburg area, North West. File Picture: Thabo Makwakwa / Independent Media

Police noticed the beard on Imanuwela David’s face, which they had noticed in his pictures, before they arrested him in Rustenburg area, North West. File Picture: Thabo Makwakwa / Independent Media

Published Dec 7, 2023


Imanuwela David, the man accused of being the mastermind behind the February 2020 theft at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s house, at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo was arrested by two dedicated police officers who found him drinking alcohol, sitting in a parked car.

On Sunday, November 5 2023, David was found in a Ford Figo that was parked along the street at night, just metres away from his mother Amalia David’s house in Rustenburg.

Before finding David in Rustenburg, the investigating officer Lieutenant Colonel Ludi Rolf Schnell had gone on a wild goose chase in Cape Town where David could not be found at different addresses, including at Burgundy Estate.

In his oral evidence, Schnell said police have established that the house at Burgundy Estate, Cape Town, was purchased by David’s ex-girlfriend Penelope Mongalo, but David made a partial down-payment to secure the unit - even though the bond is in Mongalo’s name.

Imanuwela David, also known as Collins. File Picture: NPA

While hunting for David in the Western Cape, police also established that the wanted man had purchased a house in Tlhabane West, Rustenburg.

Police said the property was purchased on March 17, 2020 at a price of R980,000.

“This transaction was flagged by the Financial Intelligence Centre as a suspicious transaction and the purchase of this property was facilitated using illicit funds stolen during the housebreaking at Phala Phala,” said Schnell.

In 2022, the house was transferred into the name of a Namibian national Hafeni Felish for an undisclosed amount.

After the search for David in Cape Town came to nought, police shifted their focus to Rustenburg, where his mother Amalia also lived.

David, 39, appeared before the Bela-Bela Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, seeking release on bail.

David is charged alongside siblings Froliana Joseph, who was a domestic worker at the Phala Phala farm and her brother, Ndilinasho Joseph.

Ndilinasho Joseph, Froliana Joseph and Imanuwela David at the Bela Bela Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

The Joseph siblings were released on bail last month. The State did not oppose bail, and it was set at R5,000 for Froliana and R10,000 for Ndilinasho.

Their stringent bail conditions include that they hand over their passports, and they may not leave the Bela-Bela area without informing the police.

During the bail application, investigating officer Schnell has been strongly opposed to David’s bid for freedom. The investigating officer gave oral evidence before magistrate Predeshni Ponnan.

Magistrate Predeshni Ponnan at the Bela Bela Magistrate’s Court. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Schnell narrated to the court how he and his police colleague cornered and arrested David at Tlhabane West in the Rustenburg area on November 5.

Before the arrest, police had also established that David is also known as Collins or Atileni.

On the day of the arrest, police were observing his mother’s house in Tlhabane West, Rustenburg, when they later spotted David parked nearby, drinking alcohol.

“We continued past (the mother’s house) and about 100 metres up the road at a sharp turn we noticed a blue Ford Figo parked on the side of the road. The driver’s door was open and my vehicle’s lights shone directly into the vehicle. We could identify one male person sitting in the driver’s seat, drinking a quart of beer,” said Schnell.

The two police officers immediately suspected that this could be David, “due to the beard and features we had seen on pictures”.

Imanuwela David. File Picture: Thabo Makwakwa / Independent Media

“I stopped and enquired from the person where he lived, and he indicated at the residence where the vehicle was standing. I then asked the person to identify himself, and he said he was Collins,” said Schnell.

The two police officers then rushed out of their State vehicle, and quizzed the man who later admitted that he is indeed Imanuwela David.

“At 7pm I arrested the (bail) applicant. I explained his rights to him and he understood them,” said the investigating officer.

They then took the arrested man and went to the mother’s house where she lives with David’s nephews and children.

Schnell said Amalia and the children all confirmed that David does not reside with them at the Rustenburg house.

“One of the small children was about to share with me where the applicant (David) stays when she was abruptly interrupted by Amalia David in their Ovambo language, and the child stopped talking to me,” said Schnell.

Police said David insisted that he stayed permanently in Kraaifontein, Cape Town.

David was later detained at Wierdabrug police station in Tshwane.

Last month, Limpopo spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi emphasised that in David’s case, the bail application will be vehemently opposed.

“We cannot disclose the information at this stage. The public will hear the reason (for opposing bail for David) during the bail hearing, because it will harm our case,” Malabi-Dzhangi told broadcaster Newzroom Afrika at the time.

“On December 6, we are prepared to oppose the bail (application). We are prepared to take our witness to the stand in order to oppose the bail hearing of accused number one (David).”

The three suspects are facing several charges in connection with the theft of $580 000 (around R10.87 million) on February 9, 2020, at the president’s farmhouse.

The three accused are charged with housebreaking and the theft. David faces an additional charge of money laundering.

Magistrate Ponnan is expected to rule on Friday, regarding David’s bail application.