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Sudanese businessman tells Sky News he is Ramaphosa’s buffalo buyer – but how does his story stack up?

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    Nat Quinn

    The man who President Cyril Ramaphosa says bought 20 buffalo from his Phala Phala farm in late 2019 was named as one ‘Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim’. Now, a Sudanese businessman called Hazim Mustafa has told Sky News that he is the buyer in question. We compare his version of events with Ramaphosa’s.

    Hazim Mustafa is a Sudanese millionaire who was identified by News24 in September as a possible candidate for the real identity of the “Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim” who allegedly paid $580,000 for 20 buffalo owned by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

    At the time of the initial report, however, there was no confirmation from the Ramaphosa camp that Mustafa was indeed the mysterious businessman in question.


    Now Mustafa has told Sky News that he did indeed pay $580,000 in cash for Phala Phala game in December 2019 – but that he had no idea that the animals, or the Phala Phala farm itself, were owned by Ramaphosa.

    “I wasn’t aware it belonged to the president. I dealt with a broker – the one working on Phala Phala farm,” Mustafa is quoted as telling Sky News.

    Ramaphosa’s version vs Mustafa’s version

    To recap: Ramaphosa’s version of events, as contained in the submissions the President made to the independent Phala Phala panel, is as follows. He writes that on 25 December 2019,

    “Mr Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, a citizen of Sudan (“Mr Hazim”), came to the farm to view buffaloes that were for sale. [Acting farm manager Sylvester] Ndlovu showed Mr Hazim the buffalos in Camp 6 and Mr Hazim identified those that he liked the look of. Mr Hazim made payment in cash in the sum of US$580,000 to Mr Ndlovu.”

    Ramaphosa continues:

    “Mr Ndlovu, upon receipt of the money, gave Mr Hazim an acknowledgement of receipt and informed him that he would inform me about what had transpired… After Mr Hazim had left Phala Phala, Mr Ndlovu took the money and locked it in the safe at the Bayeto Centre office.”

    Some of the elements of this story earmarked by both the Phala Phala panel and commentators as strange or improbable were:

    • The lack of further details regarding “Hazim’s” identity, such as a passport number;
    • The idea that someone would do this kind of wildlife shopping on Christmas Day;
    • The idea that someone would be able to bring this quantity of cash dollars into South Africa;
    • The idea that someone would spend the equivalent of almost R9-million on buffalo which were subsequently not collected, as the game are still in place at Phala Phala.

    Mustafa’s (unhelpfully brief) version to Sky News provides answers of some sort to the latter three issues.

    He said that he was in Limpopo at that time “celebrating Christmas and his wife’s birthday”.

    Hazim Mustafa
    Sudanese millionaire Hazim Mustafa. (Photo: Twitter)

    News24 previously reported that Mustafa’s wife is a South African woman originally from KwaZulu-Natal called Bianca O’Donoghue, so the idea that the couple might be in South Africa for Christmas and her birthday is not unfeasible.

    As for the amount of cash Mustafa was travelling with: he claims he brought it into South Africa through OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg without any apparent trouble.

    Read in Daily Maverick: “In the eye of the storm: Inside the report that might sink Cyril Ramaphosa

    Mustafa said that he declared it at the airport but refused to show Sky News the relevant declaration forms, apparently on the basis of the ongoing legal processes around the matter.

    “$580,000 is nothing for a businessman like me. I don’t know what the big issue is,” Mustafa is reported to have said.

    The question of why the buffalo were not transferred to the buyer, if indeed they were sold, was arguably one of the biggest questions shadowing Ramaphosa’s account.

    Mustafa says there was nothing more sinister at work here than the Covid-19 pandemic which stymied global trade, and subsequent bureaucratic hold-ups.

    “When we did the deal, they were supposed to prepare the animals for export. Then the Covid-19 lockdown happened and there was delay after delay after delay… It took too long, so I didn’t get my money back, but there is an understanding that I will be refunded,” the businessman told Sky News.

    Questions remain

    Although Mustafa’s account seems to offer some important corroboration of Ramaphosa’s basic story on the face of it, there are still important questions in need of answers.

    Why, for instance, would Mustafa only supply his version of events at this stage, months after the scandal broke?

    Most importantly, why did Ramaphosa’s camp not ask him to submit an affidavit to this effect to the Phala Phala inquiry? This question is particularly pressing given that Mustafa’s comments about “understanding” he will be refunded for the buffalo suggest that he must have been in touch with Phala Phala subsequent to the sale.

    Read in Daily Maverick: “Phala Phala panel report – information is not evidence, says President in ConCourt challenge to impeachment findings

    Is it possible that Ramaphosa was simply squeamish about being publicly associated with a businessman who is reportedly closely linked to former Sudanese dictator Omar Al-Bashir, and whose business partner is reportedly being investigated for criminal espionage?


    There may well be other skeletons in Mustafa’s closet. News24 reported that the businessman, president of Sudanese football team Al Merrikh SC, enjoys a life of opulence in Dubai – but that although he appears to have started off running a small printing business, “the true source of his wealth remains unclear at this stage”.

    There is no suggestion at this point that Mustafa and Ramaphosa have any relationship – business or otherwise – extending beyond the sale of the buffalo. There are also no public records of Mustafa having any business interests in South Africa.

    If Ramaphosa just wanted to conceal his ties, however tenuous, to a potentially questionable businessman, it was a gamble which has backfired catastrophically.

    In a way, Mustafa’s account is irrelevant

    As intriguing as the Mustafa development is, in technical terms it cannot help Ramaphosa very much.

    This is because the basis for the Phala Phala panel recommending the full parliamentary impeachment process was not the fundamental implausibility of the buffalo story, but the circumstances surrounding it.

    The panel found that Ramaphosa had a case to answer regarding:

    • Whether his Phala Phala farming constituted impermissible “paid work” undertaken while President;
    • Whether he violated anti-corruption laws by not reporting the theft of money from Phala Phala to the Hawks;
    • Whether he mis-used his official Presidential Protection Unit by tasking it with investigating a theft on his private property; and
    • Whether he acted wrongly in reporting the theft to his head bodyguard to investigate rather than the police.

    What Hazim Mustafa told Sky News does not help resolve any one of those four issues.

    But if it could be confirmed to be true, what Mustafa’s version might do is to restore some measure of public trust in Ramaphosa and the basics of his Phala Phala story.

    Ramaphosa’s ‘buffalo buyer’ – we analyse his story (dailymaverick.co.za)

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