South Africa’s Parliament has appointed an independent panel to determine whether President Cyril Ramaphosa should face impeachment over the alleged cover-up of a heist at his luxury farmhouse.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula named the panel in a statement overnight Wednesday, according to local news outlet News24.
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The three-man panel is headed by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo and includes a former High Court judge and a university professor. It will have 30 days to report its findings.
To remove a president requires a two-thirds majority vote in the National Assembly and that could be a tall order as Ramaphosa’s African National Congress (ANC) party commands more than two-thirds of the seats.
But there has recently been division within the ANC’s ranks as some party members joined an anti-Ramaphosa rally in July, to demand his removal.
In June, legislators from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a leading opposition party, heckled the president as he delivered a speech in Parliament.
A small opposition party, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), set down the motion that led to the creation of the panel in Parliament on Wednesday.
The scandal around Ramaphosa erupted in June after South Africa’s former national spy boss, Arthur Fraser, filed a complaint with the police.
He alleged that robbers broke into the president’s farm in the northeast of the country, where they stole $4m in cash stashed in furniture.
Ramaphosa hid the robbery from the authorities and instead organised for the robbers to be kidnapped, questioned and then bribed into silence, Fraser said.
The president is also alleged to have enlisted the assistance of his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob, in apprehending one of the suspects who was a Namibian national and fled back home.
Ramaphosa has acknowledged a burglary but denies the accusations of kidnapping and bribery, saying he reported the break-in to the police.
He has also disputed the amount of money involved and said the cash came from legitimate sales of game from his animal-breeding farm.
In June, Ramaphosa suspended the country’s anti-corruption ombudswoman a day after she launched an investigation into the burglary. The public protector’s office had said it would invoke subpoena powers to get answers from the president.
Last week, the High Court dismissed the suspension, saying the “hurried nature” of the move “may have been retaliatory”.
Pressure has been piling on Ramaphosa in the run-up to an ANC conference in December where he is expected to seek re-election.