Cyril Ramaphosa raised animals to hunt, purportedly had $580,000 stashed in his sofa, & was suspected of taking a bribe linked to $42 million scam by David Wills, former Humane Society of the U.S. exec doing life for child sex trafficking
JOHANNESBURG––Win or lose a confidence vote at the African National Congress convention beginning on December 16, 2022, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa will have shown the world just how easy it is for game farming and trophy hunting to front for money-laundering.
Innocent or guilty of alleged corruption on a grand scale, Ramaphosa at the very least was involved in a supposed sale of trophy-sized buffalo through his Phala Phala wildlife ranch in Limpopo, in which a lot of cash changed hands with little or no record of what actually was sold to whom, why.
Accused of kidnapping, bribery, money-laundering, & concealing a crime
“On June 1, 2022,” summarized Thabi Myeni for Al Jazeera three weeks later, “Arthur Fraser, the former head of the South African State Security Agency, walked into a police station in Johannesburg and filed a criminal complaint against President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“Fraser accused Ramaphosa of kidnapping, bribery, money laundering, and ‘concealing a crime’ in relation to the alleged theft of $4 million dollars” from Phala Phala, “in a 12-page sworn statement, accompanied by photographs, documents, and closed-circuit television footage of the alleged theft taking place.
“Shortly after the spymaster’s allegations surfaced,” Myeni continued, “Ramaphosa issued a statement confirming a robbery on his farm on February 9, 2020, saying “proceeds from the sale of game were stolen,’ but denying any wrongdoing or criminal conduct.
Burglars on video
“According to Fraser,” Myeni narrated, “criminals broke into Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala wildlife farm on February 9, 2020 and discovered large sums of dollar bills hidden in various pieces of furniture.
“Fraser alleged that Ramaphosa’s housekeeper, whose identity is being protected, discovered the stash and messaged her brother, who knew a gang,” including four Namibians and two South Africans, Myeni said.
The gang burglarized Phala Phala, unstuffing the leather sofa in which the dollar bills were allegedly hidden.
Unknown to the burglars, their illegal entry through a window was captured on the closed circuit video that Fraser shared with the Johannesburg police.
Ramaphosa, contending that he was abroad at the time, said he reported the incident to the presidential protection police unit, and that he asked his head of security, Major General Wally Rhoode, to investigate.
“Rhoode allegedly assembled a team of retired police officers and serving members of the crime intelligence unit, who recovered some of the stolen loot from the housekeeper and some of her alleged co-conspirators after interrogation,” Myeni wrote.
Meanwhile, Myeni said, “Some of the suspects are accused of changing the currency from United States dollars to South African rand and going on a spending spree – buying cars and houses in cash – in Cape Town shortly after the alleged heist.
Paid for silence
“Fraser claims that the housekeeper and the alleged perpetrators were later paid nearly $10,000 for their silence,” Myeni added.
Why would a housekeeper allegedly be paid for silence about a crime she purportedly organized against an innocent victim?
Why would alleged burglars be paid by the purported victim for silence about a theft?
But then, why would the independently wealthy president of a nation, reportedly the multi-millionaire owner of 150 fast food franchises, stash dollar bills in a sofa?
According to an affidavit from Ramaphosa himself, “Mr Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, a citizen of Sudan came to the farm [on December 25, 2019] to view buffaloes that were for sale. [Acting farm manager Sylvester] Ndlovu showed Mr Hazim the buffalos and Mr Hazim identified those that he liked the look of. Mr Hazim made payment in cash in the sum of U.S. $580,000 to Mr. Ndlovu.
“Mr Ndlovu, upon receipt of the money, gave Mr Hazim an acknowledgement of receipt and informed him that he would inform me about what had transpired. After Mr Hazim had left Phala Phala, Mr Ndlovu took the money and locked it in the safe at the Bayeto Centre office.”
38 cubic feet of money
How did the safe become a sofa?
How could approximately 38 cubic feet of dollar bills have been stuffed into either a standard office-sized safe, normally holding about six cubic feet, or a sofa, typically occupying 30 to 40 cubic feet of space in total external dimensions?
Why did Hazim pay Ramaphosa’s agent Ndlovu in U.S. dollar bills anyway, instead of simply writing a check, using a credit card, or arranging a wire transfer from bank to bank?
Why did Hazim pay more than market value for the buffalo, on Christmas Day?
Some answers appeared to emerge from the interrogation of alleged burglary planner Imanuwela David, as reported by George Matlala of Sunday World on June 20, 2022. David supposedly said on tape that he and partners in crime actually stole $800,000 in $200 bills.
This sum would more easily and more probably fit into a safe or a sofa, except that the U.S. has not printed $200 bills since 1969, and trying to pass $200 bills that old would be exceedingly difficult, even if 4,000 such bills could be located.
Daily Maverick writer Rebecca Davis on December 6, 2022 red-flagged as “strange or improbable the lack of further details regarding ‘Hazim’s’ identity, such as a passport number; the idea that someone would do this kind of wildlife shopping on Christmas Day; the idea that someone would be able to bring this quantity of cash dollars into South Africa; and the idea that someone would spend $580,000 on buffalo which were subsequently not collected, and are still at Phala Phala.”
The identity of Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim remained mysterious from June 2022 until September 2022, when the Johannesburg television station News24 identified him as a Sudanese millionaire named Hazim Mustafa.
Hazim Mustafa eventually told Sky News that “he did indeed pay $580,000 in cash for Phala Phala game in December 2019,” Davis reported, “but that he had no idea that the animals, or the Phala Phala farm itself, were owned by Ramaphosa.
Christmas & wife’s birthday
“He said that he was in Limpopo at that time ‘celebrating Christmas and his wife’s birthday,’” wrote Davis.
“News24 previously reported that Mustafa’s wife is a South African woman originally from KwaZulu-Natal called Bianca O’Donoghue,” Davis allowed, “so the idea that the couple might be in South Africa for Christmas and her birthday is not unfeasible.”
But Davis was less convinced by the rest of the story.
“As for the amount of cash Mustafa was traveling with,” Davis said, “he claims he brought it into South Africa through Tambo Airport in Johannesburg without any apparent trouble,” even though 38 cubic feet in dollar bills would have taken a forklift to move.
“Mustafa said that he declared it at the airport,” Davis continued, “but refused to show Sky News the relevant declaration forms.”
“$580,000 is nothing”
Reportedly said Mustafa, “$580,000 is nothing for a businessman like me. I don’t know what the big issue is.”
One big issue is that not many people use a forklift load of dollar bills instead of a checkbook, a bank card, or even bills of higher denomination.
Continued Davis, “The question of why the buffalo were not transferred to the buyer, if indeed they were sold, is arguably one of the biggest questions shadowing Ramaphosa’s account. Mustafa says there was nothing more sinister at work here than the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“When we did the deal,” said Mustafa to Sky News, “they were supposed to prepare the animals for export. Then the Covid-19 lockdown happened and there was delay after delay after delay. It took too long. I didn’t get my money back, but there is an understanding that I will be refunded.”
“Ramaphosa is an enigma”
Inquired Davis, “Why would Mustafa only supply his version of events at this stage, months after the scandal broke? Why did Ramaphosa not ask him to submit an affidavit to the Phala Phala inquiry?
“Is it possible,” Davis wondered, “that Ramaphosa was simply squeamish about being publicly associated with a businessman who is reportedly closely linked to former Sudanese dictator Omar Al-Bashir, and whose business partner is reportedly being investigated for criminal espionage?”
Assessed The Economist, “Cyril Ramaphosa is an enigma; his presidency, a disappointment. But if there is one thing he has consistently spoken out about, it is the importance of the rule of law, especially the constitution he helped draft as Nelson Mandela’s right-hand man. His biggest success as South Africa’s president has been rebuilding some of the criminal justice institutions destroyed by his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.”
Stranger than buffalo-gate
However, The Economist continued, “On November 30, 2022, the rule of law became personal. A panel of ex-judges appointed by [the South African] Parliament concluded there was enough evidence of misconduct by the president in relation to the odd saga involving cash inside a sofa for Members of Parliament to consider impeaching him. Over the next 24 hours he pondered resigning, in part because he felt not doing so would be hypocritical.
“Yet bolstered by cabinet allies and provincial bigwigs within the African National Congress party, Ramaphosa chose to fight and stand for re-election.
“Since a majority of Members of Parliament must vote to impeach a president,” The Economist noted, “and the African National Congress has 57.5% of the seats, it would require a chunk of his party to turn on him,” but stranger things associated with buffalo-gate have already happened.
For starters, Ramaphosa appears to have become involved in game farming around the same time a shadowy company called Bosasa emerged, headed by a political insider named Gavin Watson.
Watson, 71, was found, already dead, in a car that crashed into a concrete pillar at the Johannesburg airport on August 26, 2019.
Reported News24, “His former lieutenant, Angelo Agrizzi, had turned on Watson and revealed him to be the absolute kingpin in the Bosasa empire of bribes, intimidation and cold hard cash.
“Data from the National Treasury shows that between 2004 and 2019, Bosasa netted an estimated 12 billion rand from numerous state departments, a conservative calculation that is likely to increase,” News24 said.
“Watson was also linked to a 500,000 rand donation made to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election campaign, a donation Ramaphosa denied knowing anything about and which was made in such a way as to hide Watson’s identity as a donor.”
SeaArk South Africa
Bosasa, Watson, and the Ramaphosa connection had become controversial earlier in 2019,
Earth Journalism Network reporter Yolandi Groenewald summarized on January 27, 2019, after Bosasa and the South African government heavily invested in SeaArk Africa.
SeaArk Africa was a prawn-farming scam that promised to employ 11,000 people, but ran through $42 million without getting beyond “pilot” development.
“It all started,” Groenewald recalled, having covered the debacle since 2008, “when David Wills convinced Gavin Watson that his brand of organic prawn farming was the next big thing back in 2005. Wills became president of SeaArk, and was put in charge of the pilot project.”
Wills had already been suspected of embezzling from the Nashua Humane Society and the Michigan Humane Society; was successfully sued for misusing funds donated to the National Society for Animal Protection, which he both founded and dissolved; was sued by three Humane Society of the U.S. employees, including current HSUS president Kitty Block, for alleged sexual harassment and embezzling in a case settled out of court; and was subsequently convicted of embezzling from HSUS.
Serving life sentence
After his South African escapades involving Watson, SeaArk, and possibly Ramaphosa, Wills was convicted in Texas on October 8, 2019 of one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor female, seven counts each of sex trafficking and coercion/enticement of a minor female, one count of attempted coercion/enticement, and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Wills on September 22, 2020 was formally sentenced to serve the rest of his life in a U.S. federal prison.
The son of a cattle herder, Samuel Ramaphosa, who left his cattle behind when he moved to Johannesburg to seek a city job, Cyril Ramaphosa reportedly began breeding cattle in 2004.
Cyril Ramaphosa got started by purchasing 43 Ankole cows, noted for their immense horns, from Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.
The horns have made shooting a cow, once accomplished only by much derided “slob hunters,” a coveted experience for the richest of rich trophy hunters.
Cyril Ramaphosa trucked the Ankole cattle to Kenya for artificial insemination. The embryos were then flown to South Africa for transplant.
Cyril Ramaphosa had 100 Ankole breeding cows at his Ntaba Nyoni farm in Mpumalanga as of August 2017, when he and photographer Daniel Naudé co-authored a book called Cattle of the Ages: Stories, and Portraits of the Ankole Cattle of Southern Africa,
By then Cyril Ramaphosa also owned the 11,120-acre Phala Phala ranch, near Bela-Bela in Limpopo, where he began raising a variety of animals to be hunted in 2010.
$2.6 million for three impala
Guardian Johannesburg correspondent David Smith and Agence France Presse agreed in September 2014 reports that Ramaphosa appeared to have changed his tune on land reform after selling “three rare white-flanked impala for more than $2.6 million” at the Stud Game Breeders auction, held in proximity to Ramaphosa’s ranch.
After the dissolution of the former apartheid [racially segregated] regime in South Africa, hundreds of white farmers who had employed tens of thousands of black laborers converted their holdings into game farms, which had much less need for laborers.
As displaced black South Africans flooded into urban shanty towns, seeking work, the African National Congress Party floated a proposal to redistribute game farm land to the landless.
Ramaphosa, however, rapidly expanding his own game farm holdings, “defended the right of white game breeders to hold on to their land,” Smith wrote.
PETA: Ramaphosa “is quietly developing & expanding a trophy hunting property”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in November 2020 accused Ramaphosa of having ties to South Africa’s trophy hunting industry, which was by then no secret.
Undercover video, PETA said, “reveals that Ramaphosa is quietly developing and expanding a trophy hunting property called Diepdrift—stocking it with animals from his own wildlife breeding operation, Phala Phala—and that he owns a 50% stake in Tsala Hunting Safaris.
. “Far from ‘conserving’ wildlife,” PETA charged, “wild animals are bred [on Ramaposa’s game farms] specifically to be killed for trophies. PETA recorded conversations in which Ramaphosa’s managers admitted that he shares equally in the profits from all hunts conducted through Tsala and spoke of the importance of concealing his involvement.
“President Ramaphosa’s Tsala Hunting Safaris routinely organizes elephant hunts through Wayne Wagner Safaris on properties of the Greater Kruger Conservancy,” PETA further charged.
Ramaphosa denied yet confirmed the PETA allegations
Reported Jenni Evans for News24 on November 22, 2020, “A Presidency statement said, “The allegations are patently false and are refuted in full.
“Comment was not immediately available from Tsala Hunting Safaris, and Wayne Wagner declined an opportunity to comment on PETA linking the company to Tsala Hunting Safaris,” Evans added.
“The Presidency said Ramaphosa did own Phala Phala Wildlife, which specializes in breeding rare game,” Evans continued, “but neither Ramaphosa nor Phala Phala has a stake in the industry or Tsala Hunting Safaris.
“It added that Phala Phala undertook annual culls of game such as impala, buffalo, kudu and wildebeest to avoid carrying excess numbers.
“Phala Phala had entered into an agreement with Tsala Hunting Safaris to hunt the game ‘that would in any event have been culled,’” Evans relayed.
“However, in light of the allegations that Tsala hunts threatened or protected species on other properties, Phala Phala has given notice to Tsala Safaris to terminate the hunting arrangement with it,” Evans finished.
Stud Game Breeders
Elaborated Michael Powell for the Sunday Mail on December 27, 2020, “Ramaphosa is accused of being a member of a group called Stud Game Breeders, which makes about £7 million from legal wildlife auctions each year.”
Attentive readers will recall the 2014 deal in which Ramaphosa sold “three white-flanked impala for more than $2.6 million” at the Stud Game Breeders auction.
Ramaphosa “has previously rejected claims of being involved with trophy-hunting,” Powell continued. “He says his wildlife farm breeds game and is ‘run in accordance with the strictest conservation and wildlife principles,’ and that neither he nor his farm is engaged in illegal or unethical activities.”
But that was a year and a half before several visitors allegedly bagged $580,000 in dollar bills from Ramaphosa’s sofa.