TIMELINE: The burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm

The Phala Phala saga, where millions in undeclared foreign currency were stolen at the farm of President Cyril Ramaphosa, nearly brought down his Presidency.

The Phala Phala saga, where millions in undeclared foreign currency were stolen at the farm of President Cyril Ramaphosa, nearly brought down his Presidency.

Published Nov 22, 2023


It has been just under 18 months since the South African public learnt of the infamous burglary at the Phala Phala farm, where US dollars worth millions of rand were stolen from the farm owned by the sitting President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It is alleged as much $4 million was stolen during the burglary which took place in February 2020.

This burglary - which was at the time of first reportage incorrectly reported as a robbery - remained unknown to the South African public until at least June 2020 when former spy boss Arthur Fraser approached the SA Police Service (SAPS) to open a criminal case against the president for purportedly concealing the crime.

CCTV footage on the farm later showed the suspects crawling into the property before making off with an undisclosed sum of money in foreign currency. It is alleged the suspects got a tip-off from a domestic worker about the US dollars hidden in the farm.

The money was found hidden in furniture on the farm, according to Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, an investigative journalist at the Sunday Independent at the time, who broke the Phala Phala story.

This is a comprehensive timeline of the events that have taken place regarding the Phala Phala saga since 2020. This report will be updated periodically.

February 9, 2020

At least two suspects are caught on CCTV crawling on the property before a large sum of money, which was supposedly the proceed of game sale, is stolen on the property.

– June 1, 2022

Former spy boss Arthur Fraser opens a criminal case against Ramaphosa at the Rosebank police station after learning about the February 2020 burglary. Fraser tells the police over $4 million was stolen during the incident.

In his media statement, Fraser adds: “I have taken the unprecedented step to lay criminal charges against the President. The details of the charges and the supporting evidence, including photographs, bank accounts, video footage and names are contained in my statement filed with the Rosebank police station.”

Fraser also charges that the president concealed the theft by not reporting it to the SAPS.

– June 2, 2022

The Presidency comments on the Phala Phala saga for the first time, saying there is no basis for the claims of criminal conduct that have been made against Ramaphosa by Fraser.

Ramaphosa confirms the burglary and sheds details that he was out of the country in Addis Ababa at the time, while he adds that he reported the burglary to the head of the protection services unit, Major General Wally Rhoode.

– June 7, 2023

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane sends questions to Ramaphosa about the Phala Phala burglary scandal.

June 9, 2022

Ramaphosa suspends Mkhwebane in accordance with section 194 (3)(a) of the Constitution which states the President may suspend the Public Protector (or any member of a Chapter 9 institution) “at any time after the start of proceedings by a committee of the National Assembly for [their] removal”.

– June 15, 2022

Fraser meets with Hawks investigators regarding the Phala Phala burglary and hands over the information he has.

– July 3, 2022

Speaking during an ANC meeting, Ramaphosa tells party members that he is in the business of buying and selling animals. He defends the foreign currency stolen at his farm, saying it was the proceeds of a business transaction which had been conducted in cash.

— Mzilikazi wa Afrika (@IamMzilikazi) July 3, 2023

– September 1, 2022

Police Minister Bheki Cele and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola tell the media they both had no knowledge of the Phala Phala saga.

This is despite the fact that Namibian authorities had confirmed that police from neighbouring countries met with their South African colleagues in a place called “no man’s land” to discuss the details of the break-in in 2022.

The Namibian justice department had repeatedly confirmed that a request was sent to their South African counterparts to share more details around the issue after obtaining an order to freeze the assets of the alleged mastermind. They said they received no response from SA.

“While we do understand certain things need to be done expeditiously, these institutions (NPA and SAPS) are aware of the pressure and are aware of the need to handle this matter expeditiously, but political pressure on its own is also interference,” Lamola said.

– September 9, 2022

A full bench at the Western Cape High Court found that Mkhwebane’s suspension was invalid. The ruling had to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

– November 30, 2022

The Section 89 panel chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo finds that Ramaphosa has a case to answer in respect of the Phala Phala burglary saga. Ngcobo finds that he may have acted in violation with PRECCA - the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act - and that he may have acted in a way which exposed himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business.

– December 1, 2022

Reports emerge that Ramaphosa is willing to step down from his seat at the Union Buildings. Reports suggest ANC chairperson and the Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe had to convince Ramaphosa to stay on in Pretoria.

“My own view is that the most premature decision will be for President Ramaphosa to just step down prematurely without due process,” said Mantashe.

“When we took the resolution on step aside, which is the most abused and vandalised resolution of the ANC, we said when a person is charged, let that person step aside,” he said.

“The report of the panel is not using the word should or had to, but it uses may, because it knows that it cannot take a decision of finding the president guilty or not.”

– December 5, 2022

It emerges that Ramaphosa named Sudanese businessman Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim as the source of the foreign currency stolen at his farm. He reportedly viewed buffaloes and paid $580,000 to a Mr Ndlovu, who works at the farm.

– December 7, 2022

In response to DA leader John Steenhuisen, the SA Revenue Services says it has no record of foreign currency declared by the Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa, who bought the animals in February 2020. He has reportedly never received the buffaloes.

December 14, 2022

Presidency Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is among a few ANC MPs linked with the RET faction who vote for the adoption of Justice Ngcobo’s panel report into Phala Phala.

The ANC uses it's majority in Parliament to effectively squash the Phala Phala report after voting against the adoption of the report. The other ANC MPs who voted against the party line were Supra Mahumapelo, Mosebenzi Zwane and Mervyn Dirks.

Of the 400 members of the National Assembly, 214 voted no, 148 voted yes, leading to the motion for the adoption of an ad hoc committee to investigate the Phala Phala matter further, not being adopted.

– December 16-20, 2022

Despite the Phala Phala cloud, Ramaphosa comfortably retains the ANC Presidency at the National Elective Conference held at Nasrec, Johannesburg. He secured 2,476 votes and defeated former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who garnered 1,897 votes.

– March 1, 2023

The Constitutional Court dismisses Ramaphosa's petition to review Justice Ngcobo's panel report into Phala Phala which had adverse findings against him. Ramaphosa asked the court to declare the report unlawful and set it aside, particularly its finding that he may have been involved in impeachable conduct.

However, in its short judgment, the ConCourt stated: “No case has been made for exclusive jurisdiction or direct access and the main application was dismissed. Consequently, the application to intervene falls to be dismissed.”

– June 30, 2023

Acting Public Protector advocate Kholeka Gcaleka completes her investigation into the Phala Phala and finds no wrongdoing against Ramaphosa. She finds the president did not breach the executive code of ethics and dismisses the question of conflict which had been raised by Justice Ngcobo’s report.

– July 13, 2023

The Constitutional Court finds that Ramaphosa had valid reasons to suspend Mkhwebane. “There was a rational reason for the precautionary suspension,” Justice Mandisa Maya wrote in the unanimous judgment.

The court said the fact that Mkhwebane was investigating Ramaphosa was not enough to say there was a conflict of interest in him suspending her. It also said the suspension did not have any benefit for Ramaphosa and there was no evidence that he suspended her over the Phala Phala investigation.

August 21, 2023

The SA Reserve Bank finds that Ramaphosa was not entitled to the cash stolen at his Phala Phala farm, but, it finds that the sale was “not perfected” because the Sudanese businessman Mustafa never took delivery of the 20 buffalo he paid $580,000 for in cold cash.

The central bank effectively found that there was no legal obligation on Ramaphosa or Ntaba Nyoni - the entity involved - to have declared the foreign currency under exchange control regulations.

– November 6, 2023

Two suspects linked to the Phala Phala burglary are arrested by the Hawks in Bela-Bela and Rustenburg, respectively. A third suspect was arrested three days later.

– November 7, 2023

The Phala Phala accused appear in court for the first time. The accused are named as Imanuwela David, Froliana Joseph and Ndishilano Joseph.

— Mzilikazi wa Afrika (@IamMzilikazi) November 7, 2023

– November 12, 2023

Ramaphosa will not be one of the witnesses testifying against the three people accused of allegedly stealing thousands of undeclared foreign currency hidden under the couch of his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo three years ago. This was confirmed by the NPA.

– November 17, 2023

Two of the Phala Phala burglary-accused are granted bail. Froliana, who was a domestic worker at the president's farm is granted R5,000 bail, while her brother is granted R10,000 bail.

The strict bail conditions include that they hand over their passports and they are not to leave the Bela-Bela area without informing the police. David remains in police custody and the State is expected to oppose bail.

Imanuwela David and Froliana Joseph made their first court appearance at the Bela Bela Magistrate's Court on Tuesday. The pair is accused of stealing millions in foreign currency at the Phala Phala farm owned by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Thabo Makwakwa / Independent Media

– November 19, 2023

The DA approaches the Western Cape High Court in a bid to review the SA Reserve Bank’s Phala Phala report, while ActionSA also wants to take legal action, but was still weighing its options. On the same day, the Reserve Bank released the full report explaining how its Financial Surveillance (FinSurv) investigation found the president did no wrong, despite finding "inconsistencies and non-alignment of certain of the evidence".

** This report will be updated regularly.

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