President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm manager, Sylvester Ndlovu, allegedly moved $580,000 from a safe to a sofa because he was scared the money would be stolen.

This was part of the information shared by South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago during a Parliamentary briefing on Wednesday.

Kganyago said the Reserve Bank’s Financial Surveillance Department (FinSurv) investigated the $580,000 that was stolen from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm.

The investigation included obtaining statements and affidavits from the people involved, including the President, employees of Ntaba Nyoni Estates, and Hazim Mustafa.

Mustafa allegedly paid $580,000 for 20 buffalo from Phala Phala. “Once I gave the money, the ownership of the money was transferred from me to him,” he told Sky News.

The Reserve Bank investigated whether Ramaphosa contravened exchange controls by keeping foreign currency.

Kganyago said the investigation showed that an unconditional agreement for the sale of the buffalos was not concluded on 25 December 2019.

“There were conditions attached to the sale transaction,” he said. “Hazim gave the money to Ndlovu to secure the buffalos. However, the sale transaction was subject to conditions.”

The Reserve Bank said Hazim left the money as a security deposit. However, the sale could not be finalised because additional approvals were required.

“The foreign currency was stolen before the conditions precedent to the sale transaction could be fulfilled,” Kganyago said.

As the transaction was not concluded, a legal entitlement by Ntaba Nyoni Estates to the foreign currency was not triggered.

Accordingly, the SA Reserve Bank could not conclude that there was a contravention of exchange controls by Ntaba Nyoni Estates or the President.

Lesetja Kganyago
South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago

Apart from the curious situation where $580,000 was stolen from the South African President’s farm, something else stood out – where the money was stored.

Kganyago revealed that Ndlovo initially stored the money in the safe of the Phala Phala farm after receiving it from Hazim Mustafa.

He then called Ramaphosa on 26 December 2019 and informed him of what had happened the previous day.

The President advised Ndlovo that the money could only be dealt with upon his return to the Phala Phala Farm.

On 30 December, Ndlovo decided to move the foreign currency from the safe, which many employees had access to, to a bedroom in Ramaphosa’s house.

He considered hiding the money under the cushions of the sofa in the bedroom a safer place to store the money than in the safe on the farm.

Ndlovo said he moved the money from the safe to the sofa because he feared it would be stolen while on leave.

However, there was a burglary at the Phala Phala farm on 9 February 2020, during which the $580,000 was stolen.

Initial reports suggested that a domestic worker employed at the Phala Phala game farm had discovered the money.

She gathered the support of a small team who helped her to orchestrate a burglary during which the money was stolen.