Man named in Farmgate scandal 'didn't know $580k buffalo deal was with Ramaphosa'

Arabnews24.ca:Monday 5 December 2022 02:00 PM: A businessman has told Sky News he paid $580,000 in cash to buy 20 buffalo from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's farm in December 2019 - but that he didn't initially know who the animals belonged to.

Mr Ramaphosa has come under pressure to resign over the so-called Farmgate affair, which centres on accusations he stashed millions of dollars in sofas at his private game farm and covered up its subsequent theft.

Hazim Mustafa said he was in Limpopo celebrating Christmas and his wife's birthday, but didn't know who the buffalo or the farm belonged to.

"I wasn't aware it belonged to the president. I dealt with a broker - the one working on Phala Phala farm," said the Dubai-based businessman and Sudanese football club owner.

In a statement to a panel investigating if the president has violated his oath, Mr Ramaphosa identified Mr Mustafa as the source of more than half a million dollars in cash stolen from the couch pillows of his farm in February 2020.

The panel of two former judges and a lawyer were restricted to analysing documents submitted by members of the National Assembly and the president's response.

The evidence includes an acknowledgement of receipt of $580,000 written out to "Mr Hazim" by a Phala Phala employee, Mr Ndlovu.

More on Cyril Ramaphosa

The report raises the question of why the buffalo were still on the farm three years after the receipt of sale.

"When we did the deal, they were supposed to prepare the animals for export. Then the COVID-19 lockdown happened and there was delay after delay after delay," said Mr Mustafa - who's also known for his business ties to deposed Sudanese dictator Omar al Bashir's regime.

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"It took too long, so I didn't get my money back but there is an understanding that I will be refunded," he added.

The businessman said he never got the buffalo but he understands he'll be refunded. Pic: Facebook/ Hazim Mustafa
Image: The Sudanese businessman said he never received the buffalo. Pic: Facebook/ Hazim Mustafa

ANC to vote against parliamentary report

The theft and stash of cash did not come to light until June when corruption and money laundering charges were filed by the president's political rival and former spy chief, Arthur Fraser, who claimed an undeclared theft of $4m from the farm.

The president's party, the African National Congress, said on Monday that it would vote against attempts to impeach him.

Mr Ramaphosa has also launched legal action to challenge the parliamentary report that suggested he many have broken anti-corruption laws, with legal papers calling it "seriously flawed" and "irrational".

Last week, the report concluded he may have violated his oath by conducting private business and could have a case to answer over the source of the money.

In a submission to the inquiry, the president denied any wrongdoing and declared that $580,000 had been stolen - not $4m.

The entrance to Cyril Ramaphosa's far. Pic: AP
Image: The entrance to Cyril Ramaphosa's farm. Pic: AP

The findings triggered political turmoil as pressure mounted on the president to publicly address the accusations.

A senior minister told Sky News that he was set to resign, but was convinced by allies to stay put for now.

On 16 December, the ANC is set to vote for its new leadership and National Executive Committee. President Ramaphosa is currently ahead in the nominations - which were submitted before the panel findings were published.

The party has held a series of closed-door meetings in the wake of the preliminary findings of the independent report.

After an ANC meeting on Sunday, President Ramaphosa told journalists: "It is up to the National Executive Committee, which I am accountable to, to take whatever decision."

Parliament is due to meet on Tuesday to vote on whether to launch impeachment proceedings.

However, one day before, ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said his party wouldn't back the report's call to launch impeachment proceedings.

"We will vote against it because, as you are aware, that report will set other processes in motion, like impeachment, and we are not supporting the process that will lead to the impeachment of the president," said Mr Mashatile.

Rishi Sunak meets South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Downing Street during a state visit
Image: Mr Ramaphosa met PM Rishi Sunak during a state visit to the UK in November

Many questions also remain over the cash used in the buffalo deal.

When Sky News asked Mr Mustafa how he brought more than half a million dollars in cash into South Africa, he responded plainly: "Through the airport."

"I declared it, in Johannesburg - yes, O.R Tambo airport," he said, but would not agree to present the declaration forms as evidence, citing the parliamentary process under way.

The South African Reserve Bank which governs foreign currency regulation and exchange says it is currently working with law enforcement agencies into the investigation of the Phala Phala burglary.

"$580,000 is nothing for a businessman like me. I don't know what the big issue is," said Mr Mustafa.

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