Saturday, August 20, 2022

South Africa: President Ramaphosa to face subpoena over Phala Phala farm scandal

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South Africa’s corruption watchdog has said it will invoke subpoena powers to get answers from President Cyril Ramaphosa over the alleged concealment of a theft at his luxury farmhouse.

On Tuesday, the Public Protector’s Office said a deadline for Ramaphosa to answer questions related to the break-in expired on Monday, after it denied a request for an extension.

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“We intend to subpoena the information we require from the president,” watchdog spokesman Oupa Segalwe told AFP via text message.

In June, the watchdog opened a probe over potential breaches of the executive ethics code after Ramaphosa was accused of bribing burglars to keep quiet about a February 2020 heist at his game farmhouse, where it is alleged $4m in cash was stolen.

The case, which has piled pressure on the president amid heightened tensions within the governing African National Congress (ANC) party, stems from a police report filed by former national spy boss Arthur Fraser last month. In June, he was heckled in parliament by opposition legislators.

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Fraser alleged that robbers broke into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in the northeast of the country where they found the cash hidden in furniture.

Ramaphosa hid the heist from police and the tax authorities, Fraser alleged, accusing the head of state of organising the kidnapping and questioning of the robbers, and then bribing them into silence.

Ramaphosa has acknowledged the burglary but has denied the alleged kidnapping and bribery, saying he reported the burglary to the police.

He has also disputed the amount of money involved and said the cash came from legitimate sales of game from his farm.

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Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the president’s lawyers were in communication with the office of the public protector.

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