SARB officials briefed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday, where they were grilled by MPs about specific allegations arising out the February 2020 theft, which took place at the president’s Phala Phala farm in Limpopo.
A number of parties had asked SARB – among other institutions including the South African Revenue Service (Sars) – to investigate whether foreign exchange control rules were broken by Ramaphosa, considering that the money found stashed at the farm was in the United States (US) dollar currency.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Floyd Shivambu criticised SARB’s silence regarding the matter before the officials could give an update to the committee on their annual report.
“We have never been given an opportunity to interact with [SARB]. We wrote letters, we wrote parliamentary questions [and] we even wrote letters saying we are going to take them to court, but they still obdurately refused to respond to our questions.
“Can we be given a response before we clap them with Ramaphosa and the stealing of people’s money,” he said.
In his response, SARB governor Lesetja Kganyago said the institution commenting on the Phala Phala matter would only compromise its ongoing investigations.
“We did respond to the letter by the way. It did not only come from Honourable Shivambu, [there were] letters from a number of political parties and the response was exactly the same,” he said.
“Once we get a report on any possible violations of foreign exchange control regulations, we [will] engage with that particular individual or company.
“It is practice that we do not comment any of our investigations because we do not want to undermine the investigations. We are working with law enforcement agencies on this and I do not think that it would serve us any good trying to get into the details [of] what is going on,” Kganyago added.
‘We are not Daily Sun’
A frustrated Shivambu hit back saying: “We are not asking for a comment from [SARB]… We are asking for accountability [because] you have got an obligation.
“It doesn’t matter how you feel personally whether you want to protect the sitting president or not, but you have got an obligation to respond to Parliament if you are doing something or not. That is what we are looking for.”
The EFF deputy insisted that SARB’s response to the party’s letter stated “no comment”.
“We are treated as if we are a media enquiry asking for comment from the Reserve Bank. That is not a response. What kind of nonsense is that?” he asked.
Shivhambu argued that there was no court case preventing SARB from commenting on the matter.
“We are not Daily Sun,” he further said.
Other MPs in the committee suggested that the Phala Phala matter be discussed at a later stage.
The committee resolved that SARB would report back in seven days.
“You have raised this matter and suggesting they respond in seven days, if [there are] challenges they will indicate. They are still dealing with those issues,” the committee’s chairperson, Joe Maswanganyi said.
Last week, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula directed the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence to look into whether Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa was involved in the alleged cover-up of the Phala Phala theft and whether a secret crime intelligence fund was used in the undercover operations.
As a result, an independent panel will decide whether the president will be subject to a process that may lead to his removal from office in terms of Section 89 of the Constitution and Rule 129A-Q of the National Assembly Rules.
This, however, does not constitute a parliamentary impeachment process.
The Public Protector’s office, meanwhile, is investigating whether Ramaphosa violated the Executive Members’ Ethics Code by not reporting the theft to the police.