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SOWETAN | Whitewash won’t help Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Foto24 / Cornel van Heerden

When Cyril Ramaphosa took the baton from Jacob Zuma as the president of the Republic, hopes were raised that the office would be elevated from the doldrums and be accorded due respect. Indeed, the man himself sold himself as the personification of that hope and that we were indeed waving goodbye to the vibes of the so-called "Nine Wasted Years".

Today, what came to be known as Ramaphoria has evaporated into thin air and there is generally a feeling that the promised "New Dawn" was just a mirage. Ramaphoria was a feeling that upon us was a new era in which SA was once again raising the bar and putting at the helm a president who would at all times do what is right for the nation instead of pursuing narrow self interests and self-preservation from the consequences of choices he made.

The despondency may just as well be worsened by the news on Monday that the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) had found “no perfected transaction” in the apparent sale of buffaloes at Ramaphosa’s wildlife farm Phala Phala, which subsequently led to the theft of hundreds of thousands in US dollars.

Explaining itself, the SARB said its year-long investigation into Phala Phala had found that the transaction had been “subject to conditions precedent which were not fulfilled, and therefore there was no legal entitlement, within the meaninig of regulation (6)(1) on part of Ntaba Nyoni (Ramaphosa's business) to the foreign currency”.

No prizes for guessing what that, in plain, everyday language means. Clear as mud. And in the end, another organ of state tasked into shining some light into the murky affair that is this Phala Phala saga lets the powerful off the hook.

The language used is classic legalese, which points to an over-the-top concern to tick the legal boxes rather than telling the real story of Phala Phala. 

It is a route that the president sadly has opted to take as well but there is much more at stake here, and kicking the can down the road in the hope that the noise will eventually die down won’t work. As expected, the news was met with widespread disapproval and Ramaphosa’s political opponents declaring they would challenge the report and seek other ways to make him account fully.

The bank said it wouldn’t make the report public “due to legislative requirements and constraints" that apply to it but pledged to publicly disclose some information “given that this is a matter of significant public importance”.

We won’t hold our breath but at the same time we would like to advise Ramaphosa to remember what he sold SA when angling for the presidency. That promise wasn’t premised on matters legal but ethics and the crying need to hold that office above reproach. Take the nation into your confidence, Mr President, and come clean about Phala Phala.

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