SA opposition condemn Phala Phala tax ‘cover-up’

Cyril Ramaphosa

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) has condemned the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for its “selective” justice and cover-up in president Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farmgate scandal.

This comes after SARS revealed that it would be laying criminal charges against Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa, the man who paid US$580 000 in cash to buy 20 buffaloes from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in December 2019.

Reports indicate that SARS registered the case at the Brooklyn police station in April 2023, while its investigation into the conduct of the businessman had been kept hidden from the public.

Hawks spokesperson brigadier Thandi Mbambo has confirmed that the investigation was ongoing.

ATM leader Vuyo Zungula, in a statement on Monday, said the party condemned the tax collection body’s double standards and failure to hold Ramaphosa accountable.

“The ATM, a beacon for justice and transparency, vehemently condemns the SARS for its glaring inconsistency and failure to hold Ramaphosa accountable in the recent Phala Phala farmgate scandal. The revelation that the revenue body has opened a criminal case against Hazam Mustafa, the buffalo buyer, while neglecting to press charges against president Ramaphosa, is not only an affront to justice, but also a clear indication of selective enforcement,” he said.

Last year, the revenue body in its report into the scandal said it had found “no record” that US$580 000 paid to Ramaphosa’s farm was declared by the buffalo buyer even though Ramaphosa had admitted to receiving money from the businessman.

“Despite his admission, SARS has inexplicably chosen to target the buyer, while seemingly turning a blind eye to the president’s involvement in the questionable financial transaction. This double standard not only undermines the credibility of the investigation but also erodes the public’s trust in the impartiality of our institutions. “Adding to the irony is SARS’ statement, confirming that Ntabanyoni Estates and Ntabanyoni Feedlots, the corporate entities managing president Ramaphosa’s farms had undergone audits, with both companies’ tax affairs declared to be in order. Now the sudden shift towards arresting the buyer raises serious questions about the consistency and integrity of SARS’ actions.”

According to media reports, the spokesperson for the president has refused to comment.

Zungula said the Section 89 report had found that Ramaphosa had a case to answer on the matter, and taking into account African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Fikile Mbalula’s recent admission that the party had protected former ANC president Jacob Zuma on the Nkandla matter, there was concern that Ramaphosa was being shielded by his party representatives in parliament.

“The ATM asserts that the ANC employed its machinery to shield Ramaphosa from accountability. SARS, the South African Reserve Bank, the public protector, advocate Gcaleka, and other complicit institutions must be scrutinised for their role in protecting the president. This abuse of power only serves to undermine the foundations of democracy and jeopardise the principles of justice and transparency,” Zungula said.

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said the entire matter had reeked of corruption and a cover-up from day one.

“The tissue of lies that has been built up by the president on this matter is going to slowly be dismantled and exposed as a tawdry cover-up by a desperate man.

It is a great pity that the ANC used their parliamentary majority to shield the president from an inquiry, as recommended by an expert and independent panel, as this could have gotten to the truth faster.

“Just like there cannot be a corrupted without a corrupter, so too will the full truth of the president’s abuse of his office to cover up the matter be exposed. We welcome any and all steps taken to get to the bottom of this matter and hope that the truth will come out soon.”

Additional reporting by Goitsemang Matlhabe. -IOL

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