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Phala Phala Couch Cash Was ‘Security Deposit’, Says Reserve Bank Governor Amid Grilling by MPs

SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago has defended the bank’s investigation into Phala Phala, telling MPs its probe found that the $580 000 in cash handed to a lodge manager in 2020 was a “security deposit” and not a final payment. 

“Mr Hazim (Mustafa) left money at Phala Phala as a security deposit to secure the buffalo,” Kganyago told Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance a week after the central bank released a brief overview of its report. 

The bank had probed whether exchange control rules were broken after $580 000 in cash was stolen from under a cushion on a couch in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s private residence at the game farm three years ago. It found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the president or Ntaba Nyoni Estates, the operating name for Phala Phala. 

The governor said on Wednesday the bank’s Financial Surveillance Department found there was no obligation for the wildlife estate to report the foreign currency to authorities within 30 days. The probe concluded there was no “unconditional agreement” for the sale of the buffalo. 

The final price for the 20 buffalo that Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa wanted to buy still needed to be confirmed, he said. Tests still needed to be conducted on the animals and vets consulted. Permits would also be needed for the transport of the animals. 

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

The governor reiterated that he could not make the full report public. He added that the “mere possession of foreign currency” was not covered by foreign exchange control regulations. 

Limited scope 

The governor said bank was careful of not overstepping its mandate, adding it only probed whether exchange control regulations were broken. 

In response to questions about how the stolen funds entered the country, Kganyago said that the bank was not responsible for SA’s ports of entry. 

While the governor received support from some ANC MPs, his explanation did little to convince some of the other committee members. 

Nqabayomzi Kwankwa of the UDM said:

This is unadulterated claptrap if you ask me.

The EFF’s Floyd Shivambu accused the bank of engaging in a “systemic coverup” and asked colleagues in the committee to investigate removing Kganyago as governor. 

“We are likely to approach the courts on this matter,” said DA MP Dion George. 

Kganyago, meanwhile, sought to defend the bank’s employees who conducted the probe against claims of a whitewash. 

“Our team acted independently without fear, favour and prejudice. That is what we expected of them,” he said.  

Source : News24