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Phala Phala farm dollars not declared to SARS

By Bahle Gama

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s woes continue as the Phala Phala scandal has returned with a vengeance to bite him.

The South African Revenue Services (SARS) on Monday confirmed that the dollars found stashed under his couches and mattress were not declared to them as Ramaphosa and the Businessman had alleged.

The leader of the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) John Steenhuisen announced that he has been informed by SARS that there was no trail of a declaration.

The information was directly obtained from SARS following a request submitted in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

Read More: SA President Subpoenaed by Public Protector over Phala Phala Robbery

In 2022, Ramaphosa claimed to have received over E10.5 million ($580 000) from a Sudanese national, Hazim Mustafa which was payment for cattle as part of a legitimate business transaction.

Mustafa claimed to have complied with the requirement to declare the money to SARS officials at OR Tambo airport when entering South Africa.

“The SARS customs policy on excess currency stipulates that ‘every person must declare’ foreign currency upon arrival in the country. Failure to adhere to this provision is an offence that may be criminally prosecuted,” said the DA leader.

With the intent to verify both parties’ claims, Steenhuisen submitted a PAIA request to SARS on December 7, 2022, to obtain relevant currency declaration forms submitted by Mustafa to declare the money he was bringing into the country.

“The DA received SARS’ response this morning (Monday), with the revenue service confirming that ‘the record does not exist and/or cannot be found’. This was accompanied by an affidavit from Siyabonga Nkabinde, a legal specialist in SARS’ corporate legal services department,” said Steenhuisen. 

In his affidavit, Nkabinde stated that on January 17, he commenced engagements with various business units within SARS that he believed may be in the custody or have the record requested and was advised that according to the search for the record in various SARS Passenger Processing Systems, the record could not be found to be in existence.

SARS Response
The Response from SARS to the Democratic Alliance

The response by SARS according to the DA means that “we now know that the President of South Africa had hidden dirty dollars, which had entered the country illegally, inside a couch on his game farm.”

Steenhuisen stated that this renders Ramaphosa’s claim that these funds were merely the proceeds of a business transaction impossible to believe because legitimate business transactions are usually not hidden from SARS inside a couch. 

“It now seems more likely than ever that Ramaphosa may have been in possession of these dirty dollars for a corrupt, illicit or criminal purpose,” he said.

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The DA further stated that the information also adds credence to the findings of the Section 89 panel’s report that there exists prima facie evidence that Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, as well as his oath of office.

He added that “the ANC last year abused its majority in the National Assembly to reject the panel’s report and Ramaphosa vowed to overturn it in court.” 

However, the Constitutional Court last week denied him direct access to challenge the panel’s findings. 

The DA leader stated that it will introduce this information from SAS as evidence that the panel’s report must stand. This is in the event Ramaphosa turns to another court to avoid accountability for his possessions of the dollars and a subsequent coverup theft at his farm.

“We will also submit this information to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as yet another reason why she must accede to the DA’s request for the urgent establishment of an ad hoc committee to fully expose the truth behind the President’s dirty dollars,” added Steenhuisen.

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