Monday’s announcement that Ramaphosa was taking legal action came as the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party warned that it would not back any motion at an upcoming parliamentary debate that could lead to a vote for removing Ramaphosa, under fire over a burglary scandal.
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“Should parliament proceed tomorrow [Tuesday], the ANC will not support that vote,” the party’s interim secretary-general, Paul Mashatile, told reporters after day-long talks among party leaders.
A panel of experts found preliminary evidence Ramaphosa may have committed misconduct and violated the constitution.
The parliamentary inquiry relates to findings that large sums of foreign currency were hidden at Ramaphosa’s private game farm, and that he failed to report the money missing when it was stolen in 2020.
The existence of the cash at the Phala Phala game farm and his failure to report the theft to police only surfaced in June in a scandal dubbed “Farmgate” by the media.
The case, which has piled pressure on the president amid heightened tensions within the governing ANC, stems from a police report filed by former national spy boss Arthur Fraser last month. In June, he was heckled in parliament by opposition legislators.
Ramaphosa has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes. He said the stolen money was the proceeds of the sale of buffaloes and far less than the millions of dollars alleged when the theft came to light.
Having received firm backing from his allies within the party, Ramaphosa has promised to fight on, with his spokesman saying the panel’s findings would be challenged.
A copy of court papers filed by Ramaphosa’s lawyers in the constitutional court showed that the president wanted the panel report “reviewed, declared unlawful and set aside”.
Ramaphosa also wants any steps taken by the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, over the panel report to be declared unlawful and invalid, the papers showed.
The National Assembly was set to debate the report on Tuesday, but late on Monday, it announced it was delaying the impeachment vote by one week.
Legislators will decide whether he should face a vote to force him from office.
To succeed, the vote would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly.
Investors fear uncertainty and that any other president could slow down or reverse economic reforms and increase government spending and take on more debt at levels they deem unsustainable.
Despite doubts over Ramaphosa’s integrity, he is still seen by investors at home and abroad as less corrupt than any of his rivals.
South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said it had submitted a motion to dissolve the national assembly and reiterated its call for an early election.
“Parliament’s role is precisely to step up at times such as this … It can only do this by dissolving the National Assembly so that the president can call an early election,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen.