South Africa panel files report on Ramaphosa farm scandal

The inquiry looked into whether the president should face impeachment for the alleged cover-up of theft of $4m in cash at his game farm.

President Cyril Ramaphosa
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing [Toby Melville/Reuters]

A special panel investigating whether South African President Cyril Ramaphosa should face impeachment for allegedly covering up a crime that took place on his private farm, submitted its findings to parliament, two weeks before he faces a crucial party election.

The three-person team, led by an ex-chief justice, handed its report to National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at a televised ceremony in Cape Town on Wednesday

In June, it emerged that an estimated $4m in cash was stolen from Ramaphosa’s game farm in 2020, raising questions about how the billionaire president, who took to power on the promise of  fighting corruption, acquired the money and whether he declared it.

The panel was set up in September and tasked with ascertaining whether there was sufficient evidence to show that Ramaphosa committed a serious violation of the constitution or the law or grave misconduct, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

The report will be published within 24 hours, the speaker said. Legislators will then examine the findings in a one-day sitting on December 6, where it will adopt a resolution, “through a simple majority vote, whether a further action by the House is necessary or not,” she added.

While Ramaphosa has confirmed that a robbery occurred, he said the cash was from proceeds from the sales of game. He has denied breaking the law or any regulations relating to his office.

The alleged cover-up has tarnished the president’s reputation and overshadowed his bid for re-election at the helm of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

Next month, an elective conference will decide if he gets to run for a second term on the ANC ticket in the 2024 national polls.

Earlier this month, Spokesperson to President Vincent Magwenya told journalists that Ramaphosa, aged 70, would “gladly step aside” if he were to be criminally charged.

Ramaphosa, however, remains the favourite to win at the Africa National Congress’ December 16-20 conference, where he faces a challenge from Zweli Mkhize, 66, an ex-health minister who resigned from the government last year amid corruption allegations.

The chances of impeachment are slim given the ANC’s dominance of parliament, where it holds 230 seats, or nearly 60 percent of the total, and typically votes along party lines. Impeaching a president requires a two-thirds majority.

“Dragging the president before an impeachment process is a huge decision, it cannot be done on flimsy [grounds], it has to be something tangible,” former Chief Justice and panel chairman Sandile Ngcobo said at the handover of the recommendations on Wednesday.

The parliamentary inquiry is separate from a criminal investigation that police are conducting, and which Ramaphosa has welcomed.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies