Photography: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images
A Sudanese businessman has confirmed paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for cattle at the center of the scandal that threatened to oust South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The struggling president launched legal action on Monday to challenge a report delivered last week by a parliament-appointed independent group that accused him of gross misconduct after the theft from his private ranch of between $500,000 (£ 410,000) and $5 million in cash nearly three years ago.
The funds, which Ramaphosa said were the proceeds from the sale of the cattle, were allegedly hidden in a sofa when they were taken. Opposition politicians and enemies within the ruling African National Congress party, led by the president, disputed Ramaphosa’s account.
Hazim Mustafa, who now resides in the UAE, told the Guardian on Tuesday that he visited Ramaphosa’s ranch in Phala Phala, Limpopo province, in December 2019 and bought the cattle, paying $580,000 in cash to the farm’s staff. farm.
“All I can tell you is that this is an absolutely clear business transaction,” the businessman said in a text message.
Mustafa said the cattle were never delivered to Dubai and that he had asked for a refund that had yet to be paid.
“It has not been shipped, as you may know such shipments are supposed to do [go] through too many processes, then that time the Covid-19 lockdown happened, everything was distracted,” he said.
Mustafa said he was in Limpopo, a popular destination for upscale safaris, for his wife’s birthday with his family and to buy a house. He said he was unaware that the buffalo and the farm belonged to the South African president.
“Actually my wife is [South African], and it was her birthday… I flew while she was there celebrating birthday and Christmas with her family. I wanted to buy a house [for] her because her family’s house is small and old, then I discovered that this time was not the right time to buy a house,” said Mustafa.
“I already had the idea of importing some exotic pets to Dubai for ransom, so I found that bidding for cash gave you better prices and the confidence of a serious buyer.”
The sought-after Ankole cattle raised on the Ramaphosa ranch would be supplemented by the businessman’s extensive existing animal collection. “Do you know how many dogs, cats, gazelles and even ferrets we have in our house?” he told the Guardian.
The businessman told Sky News he brought cash for payment to South Africa “through the [main international] airport”.
Mustafa’s statements seem to at least partially confirm Ramaphosa’s explanation of the source and amount of the stolen funds.
The chairman presented to the parliamentary inquiry a $580,000 payment receipt from “Mr Hazim,” apparently written by a Phala Phala ranch staffer.
Ramaphosa, 70, was accused of holding undeclared foreign currency, tax evasion, failing to inform police of the robbery and misusing state resources by ordering a senior presidential bodyguard to track down the thieves, who then appear to have been get paid.
The ruling African National Congress party has said it will block attempts to impeach Ramaphosa at a crucial vote in parliament next week. The party, which has been in power for 28 years, dominates in parliament, so it seems unlikely there will be enough votes to proceed with the impeachment.
The ANC’s decision to vote against the motion came after a hectic weekend of meetings of the party’s top decision-making bodies. Analysts are now predicting weeks of infighting, at least until the ANC holds a conference scheduled for later this month to nominate a leader for another five years.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman called the parliamentary inquiry report “flawed” and said it should be challenged “in the long-term interest and sustainability of our constitutional democracy”.
The president has welcomed a separate police inquiry into the allegations and denies any wrongdoing. He has not been charged with any crime and will run for re-election as party leader at the conference in 12 days. General elections are scheduled for 2024.