Phala Phala ‘politically volatile’ but nothing to do with elections – public protector

Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka says her investigation into the Phala Phala theft of US dollars on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm in Limpopo was ‘politically volatile’. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka says her investigation into the Phala Phala theft of US dollars on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm in Limpopo was ‘politically volatile’. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 7, 2024


THE investigation of the theft of US dollars on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo was politically volatile, Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka has said.

However, she has rejected the Hola Bon Renaissance (HBR) Foundation’s allegations that it had anything to do with the May 29 national and provincial elections.

In an answering affidavit filed by the public protector’s acting executive manager of investigation, Vusumuzi Dlamini, in response to the HBR Foundation’s North Gauteng High Court bid to have the entire report reviewed and set aside, Gcaleka said the application lacked merit and was replete with assumptions and leaps of logic.

Gcaleka said the HBR Foundation was fixated on particular insignificant elements that lacked merit, and that it demonstrated its tenuous grounds of review.

”This court should also be appraised of the political volatility of the matter which operated as a crucial imperative on the Office of the Public Protector to resist and isolate itself from any external pressures or efforts,” she said.

Gcaleka explained that that had been done so that her office would independently perform its mandate and functions as required by the Constitution, subject to the Constitution and the law, and exercise powers and perform functions without fear, favour and prejudice.

She said the foundation’s statement that the case was unlikely to be finalised before the May 29 elections, was vague.

”What the elections have to do with the HBR Foundation application is not made clear. How the Phala Phala report impacts those elections is not made clear.”

Gcaleka said that no stone had been left unturned in an effort to ensure that a thorough investigation was conducted and a comprehensive report prepared in the public interest.

She denied that she was biased in favour of Ramaphosa.

The public protector also disputed assertions by the president’s lawyers that the theft occurred in 2020 and the complaint was lodged before the ANC’s national conference in December 2022, which suggested that the complaint was motivated by an ulterior purpose and aimed at achieving partisan political outcomes.

”HBR Foundation selectively interprets the Phala Phala report and record outside of the context and evidence provided in it,” read the affidavit.

The foundation had not raised any real contentious issues.

”In fact, in a number of instances it almost demands that the Public Protector heeds the conclusions reached by other bodies, contrary to the constitutional imperatives that the Public Protector to pro-actively take all steps necessary to ensure an independent, fair, unbiased and proper investigation.

“A number of the complains it raises are addressed extensively in the Phala Phala report and supported by documents in the record which provide cogent legal reasons for the findings in the Phala Phala report.”

She told the high court that the HBR Foundation failed to appreciate her powers and her prerogative to investigate complaints in a manner she deemed most appropriate, with due regard for the circumstances of each case.

Gcaleka said the foundation ignored the extensive and comprehensive investigation conducted by an experienced investigation team subject to her directions and control, including engagements with relevant individuals, other organs of state and the complainants, which resulted in a comprehensive and substantive Phala Phala report.

She said the investigation process, followed by a senior and reinforced team, was undertaken under the Executive Members' Ethics Act and the Public Protector Act.

”The Public Protector must conduct its own independent investigation and make its own conclusions. It is not bound by the outcome of the section 89 report,” Gcaleka explained in relation to the section 89 panel chaired by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, who found that Ramaphosa may have contravened the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

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