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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Farmgate: Khehla Sitole vs Wally Rhoode

Johannesburg – Four police generals, including former national police commissioner Khehla Sitole, branded Cyril Ramaphosa’s head of Presidential Protection Service, Wally Rhoode, “a shameless liar” who was trying to use their dead colleague to cover-up his role in the Phala Phala scandal.

The generals’ response came after Rhoode allegedly told the public protector enquiry into the robbery at Ramaphosa’s farm in Bela-Bela, where an undisclosed amount of US dollars was stolen but no case was opened with the police – that the blame should lie squarely with the late Sindile Mfazi for failing to implement a “full-scale investigation” into the Phala Phala farm robbery.

“I can tell you without any shadow of doubt that this shameless liar never reported the matter to General Mfazi and he is now trying to use Sindile’s name to cover up for the clandestine operation they conducted to trace and arrest the men responsible for robbing the president’s farm,” said one general, who asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Five Namibian nationals broke into the farm on February 9, 2020 and stole an undisclosed amount of American dollars found concealed in furniture, including in a mattress, and Rhoode now claims that he “brought the matter to the attention” of Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi, a highly decorated officer responsible for crime detection, who reportedly succumbed to Covid-19 complications in July 2021.

In his response, Rhoode said: “I assumed that General Mfazi, as part of his full-scale investigation, would follow the prescribed process.”

An indignant Sitole said he too concurs with the sentiments expressed by the other generals and believes Rhoode is using Mfazi’s name for his own convenience.

Former National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African Agency/ANA

“Rhoode used to report directly to me and not Mfazi. I can confirm to you that while I was a national police commissioner, Mfazi and I were never made aware of any security breach or robbery at the president’s farm.

“It can’t be true that the farm robbery was brought to General Mfazi’s attention and there’s no way that Rhoode could have reported a serious matter like a robbery at the president’s residence to my junior and not tell me, his direct commander,’’ said Sitole.

Sitole added that protocol dictated that Rhoode would have reported a crime of that nature in writing even when such a matter was classified.

“There is no such report in the police system because the matter was never reported to Mfazi or myself,” added Sitole.

Sitole also refuted Rhoode’s claim, in his response to the public protector, where the presidential protection services chief said the national police commissioner “authorised” his trip to Namibia with Ramaphosa’s envoy for Africa, Bejani Chauke, on June 25, 2020.

The Sunday Independent reported last week that Rhoode and Chauke had met with Namibian police officers at no man’s land, a neutral place between the countries’ border, before being flown to Windhoek where Chauke met Namibian President Hage Geingob the following morning.

“When I authorised a trip for protection duties, it simply means that Rhoode is allowed to drive that car when the president is inside it. He isn’t allowed to drive around with the president’s envoy. I think fraud was committed on this trip,” said Sitole.

Rhoode has admitted that he was tasked by Ramaphosa to investigate the robbery.

The new national police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, also confirmed in his response to the public protector enquiry that “no case was opened/registered following the alleged theft at the president’s property (on) Phala Phala farm.”

Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane opened an inquiry on the robbery after receiving a complaint from MP and African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader Vuyolwethu Zungula following a Sunday Independent revelation that resources were used while investigating the Phala Phala robbery.

Mkhwebane then sent a list of questions to people of interest, including Rhoode and Ramaphosa, who received 31 questions.

But Mkhwebane was suspended by Ramaphosa a day after sending the questions and there is a parliament inquiry currently against her for her fitness to hold office. Her lawyer, advocate Dali Mpofu, wants Ramaphosa subpoenaed to explain whether or not he suspended her because of her investigation into the Phala Phala robbery.

Today the Sunday Independent can reveal that Rhoode, in his response to the public protector’s questions, was economical with the truth and failed to make a full disclosure.

He claimed: “It would not be correct to characterise these interviews as interrogation, which implies a degree of forcefulness.”

But what he didn’t disclose is that the mother of Ramaphosa’s domestic worker at the farm, Floriana Joseph, and her brother, David, went to the Bela-Bela police station to open a case of kidnapping and torture against him (Rhoode) – the case has since “disappeared from the police system” – and that there is a photo of David with his hands tied to his back while Rhoode was interrogating him.

“Wally (Rhoode) lies with impunity. How can you claim that someone whose hands you have tied behind their back volunteered to be interviewed?” said another police general, who asked not to be named.

Rhoode also claims that he was with Chauke on June 25, 2020 “where we drove to no man’s land and waited for Namibian police to meet us”, but the Namibian police chief, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, in his press statement, said the meeting was on June 19, 2020 “at what is termed as no man’s land near Noordoewer, Karas region, to share operational information pertaining to Mr David Imanuwela and other Namibian nationals suspected to have stolen money in South Africa and (to have) fled to Namibia.”

In the press statement, Ndeitunga stated that “the meeting resolved for the two police authorities to investigate the matter within their jurisdiction”.

Who is Imanuwela David

Imanuwela David is believed to be the mastermind behind the Phala Phala robbery.

David was arrested in Namibia less than 24 hours after illegally entering the country by taking a canoe across the Orange River on June 12, 2020.

The Namibian-born man, who also held a South African identity, was running away because “things were getting hot”.

David was kept in a Namibian jail until November of the same year and missed his wedding to a South Africa woman which was planned for September.

It is believed that he bought properties in Cape Town and Rustenburg and luxury cars and registered them in someone’s name.

When he was arrested in Namibia, David was found in possession of a TAG Heuer watch worth N$28 000, a Rolex watch worth N$ 280 000, and a gold chain worth N$163 000 as well as 11 US$100 notes and four cellphones.

He allegedly bribed former National Fishing Corporation of Namibia (Fishcor) CEO Paulus Ngalangi and a police sergeant, Hendrik Nghede, to transport him to Windhoek after he had illegally entered Namibia. Ngalangi and Nghede were arrested and expected to go on trial in August.

David pleaded guilty to two charges on November 13, 2020 – for entering Namibia illegally and for failing to declare goods he brought into the country – and was ordered to leave the country within 48 hours of his release.

Rhoode, in response to the public protector, also failed to disclose that he initially arrested David at a house in Milnerton, Cape Town on March 31, 2020 after using a fictitious drug trafficking case to raid the property.

A state grabber, operated by two police officers who were made to drive from Pretoria to Cape Town, was also used to trace and ping David to the house in Milnerton.

Rhoode released David, who was also tortured, with hands tied behind his back, and interrogated, after he surrendered some of the money that was stolen at Phala Phala. During the interrogation, David was accused of stealing $20 million from the farm.

But Rhoode, in his response, denied “knowledge of any money or items derived from the proceeds of the money stolen from the farm being recovered”.

He also said he and Chauke, Ramaphosa’s envoy, were flown in a state helicopter to Windhoek, where Chauke had a meeting with Geingob the following morning without involving him.

The Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) deputy president in Namibia, Kalimbo Lipumbu, said yesterday that the party would engage international organisations to ensure that Geingob was properly investigated for his role in the Phala Phala cover-up.

Namibian President Hage Geingob. Picture: Kopano Tlape, GCIS

“The constitution in Namibia doesn’t allow for a sitting president to be investigated for any crime. Our president can today pick up a gun and shoot someone dead, he won’t face the rod of the law. In Namibia, our president is above the law, hence we want to engage international organisations to make sure that our president is properly investigated for his role in this Phala Phala scandal,” Lipumbu said.

When the scandal broke in June, the NEFF requested the country’s ombudsman, Basilius Dyakugha, to investigate claims that Geingob was implicated in an alleged cover-up in the Phala Phala scandal.

But Dyakugha informed the NEFF that he can’t investigate Geingob.

The robbery became public knowledge when former State Security director-general Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa at the Rosebank police station in Johannesburg.

Fraser, in his affidavit to the police, claimed that Rhoode instructed Ramaphosa to pay the five robbers R150 000 each not to reveal details of the robbery to the public.

Mfazi’s family suspected foul play following his death last year. They didn’t accept initial reports that he had died of Covid-19 complications and had his body exhumed for an autopsy.

It has now been confirmed that Mfazi was poisoned after carbon monoxide was found in his blood when tests were conducted.

Yesterday police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe confirmed that there is ongoing investigation into Mfazi’s death.

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