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Exchange control regulations were not triggered, because the sale of 20 buffalo had not been ‘perfected’. From Moneyweb.

The cash was a downpayment. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he still owes the buyer either the buffalo or his money and will settle with him once ‘this whole thing settles’. Image: Supplied
The cash was a downpayment. President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he still owes the buyer either the buffalo or his money and will settle with him once ‘this whole thing settles’. Image: Supplied

The long-awaited report by the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) into the theft of $580 000 (then worth about R8 million) from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm confirms what was already in the public domain – that there was no violation of exchange control regulations over the president’s receipt of foreign exchange.

Exchange control regulations require forex to be declared within 30 days of receipt. The Financial Surveillance Department (FinSurv) of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) conducted interviews and canvassed affidavits with scores of witnesses before coming to the conclusion that the $580 000 received from a Sudanese businessman for 20 buffalo was a downpayment and not a ‘perfected transaction’, which meant Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC, trading as Phala Phala Wildlife, had no legal entitlement to the foreign currency.

The Reserve Bank report focused only on the exchange control aspects of the case, and not other potential violations of the law.

Read:Opposition unites to demand Ramaphosa answers over farm burglary

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The case first came to light in June 2022 when Arthur Fraser, former director-general of the State Security Agency, filed an affidavit requesting that Ramaphosa be investigated under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act for failing to declare US dollars stuffed into a sofa at the Phala Phala game lodge.

Ramaphosa has now been cleared of wrongdoing by the Office of the Public Protector and by the Reserve Bank of any exchange control violations.

The incident dates back to 2019 when Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim visited Phala Phala with a view to buying buffalo for on-sale to other buyers.

He was met by acting lodge manager Sylvester Ndlovu. The actual lodge manager Hendrik von Wielligh was on leave at the time. Hazim identified 20 buffalo he wished to purchase and handed Ndlovu $580 000 as a downpayment on the understanding that certain conditions had to be met – such as obtaining import permits and other regulatory approval for the export of the animals.

The going rate for buffalo at the time was R400 000 a head, and Hazim would pay the outstanding balance once the deal was finalised.

Ndlovu handed Hazim a receipt for the US dollars.

The receipt made no mention of the fact that the money was a security deposit for the full and final sale of the buffalo.

Ndlovu deposited the US dollars into a safe at the lodge, but then decided to move the cash and hide it under a sofa in Ramaphosa’s bedroom, apparently believing this was more secure as many other employees had access to the safe.


In February 2020, while Ramaphosa was abroad, Von Wielligh notified the president that there had been a security breach at the lodge and money stolen.

Two suspects were arrested in connection with the theft earlier this month and appeared in the Bela Bela Magistrate’s Court on charges of conspiracy to commit theft, housebreaking with intent to steal, and money laundering.

The two are Namibian nationals, Imanuwela David and Froliana Joseph. This brings to three the number of suspects arrested for the crime.

Deal not yet concluded

Giving evidence to FinSurv, Ramaphosa acknowledged that he owes Hazim either the buffalo or his money and would settle with him once “this whole thing settles”.

Some of the buffalo had since had calves and these too would belong to Hazim.

The applicability of Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) would depend on whether there existed a perfected transaction, in other words, an unconditional contract for the purchase and sale of the buffalos, says the report.

If there were such an unconditional contract, then Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC would have an entitlement to the foreign exchange and Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) would be triggered.

“Conversely, if there was no perfected transaction, there would not be a legal entitlement by Ntaba Nyoni Estates CC) to the foreign currency and therefore Exchange Control Regulation 6(1) would not apply,” says the report.

“Foreign bank notes or other foreign currency instruments such as traveller’s cheques may be accepted in payment of exports and services rendered subject to the condition that exporters receiving payment in this manner must declare and offer for sale such foreign currency to an Authorised Dealer not later than the following business day after acquisition thereof.”