South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing a possible impeachment threat over claims that he covered up the theft of millions of dollars in cash allegedly hidden in furniture at his game farm.
Ramaphosa, 70, is being probed in an ongoing scandal linked to the theft from his private game farm in 2020. An independent panel said it had found sufficient evidence that the President may have violated a section of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act and may have committed serious misconduct by “exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business”.
The report of the panel, which was headed by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, was handed to the Speaker of the National Assembly on Wednesday, clearing the way for possible impeachment action against Ramaphosa.
Under South Africa’s law, large amounts of foreign currency may not be kept by individuals without the requisite declarations or permissions.
The incident hit the headlines earlier this year after millions of dollars were allegedly stolen by burglars. Ramaphosa is said to have failed to report the incident to the relevant authorities and spent several months without explaining where the money came from until he told the inquiry that it was from the sale of animals.
Opposition Democratic Alliance’s leader John Steenhuisen said he would table a motion in the National Assembly for a vote on the dissolution of the government and call for elections earlier than what is scheduled for 2023.
“I will table this motion in the National Assembly, and I will call on all members of the House, regardless of party or affiliation, to support it so that we can urgently close this chapter and get back to dealing with South Africa’s many challenges,” Steenhuisen said.
Political analysts said that due to the internal power struggles within the African National Congress, which has a majority in Parliament, the Opposition might secure the 50 per cent plus one vote needed for the dissolution of the government.
Briefing the media, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said later Thursday that the President was still in consultation with various stakeholders, amid calls for his resignation.
Insiders close to Ramaphosa told the media early on Thursday that he planned to resign by the afternoon, but Magwenya said: “The President appreciates the urgency and enormity of this issue; what it means for the country (and) the stability of the government.
“He is still processing the report and engaging a number of role players and stakeholders across the governing ANC party at different levels,” Magwenya said.
“We are in an unprecedented and extraordinary moment as a constitutional democracy as a result of the report and therefore, whatever decision the President makes; that decision has to be informed by the best interests of the country. That decision cannot be rushed and cannot be taken in haste,” Magwenya added.
Reacting to the report, NGO Defend our Democracy (DoD), which unites a wide grouping of civil and religious organisation in an attempt to address the rampant corruption wracking South Africa, said: “This is an important step in ensuring democratic accountability for a person in high office.” “We welcome the institutionalising of all processes which act to strengthen South Africa’s constitutional democracy, including an impeachment process,” DoD said in a statement.