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South Africa president in peril as panel sees case for his impeachment

Paul Vecchiatto and S'thembile Cele, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

An advisory panel established by South Africa’s parliament found there are grounds for lawmakers to investigate President Cyril Ramaphosa in connection with a scandal over a robbery at his game farm, a finding that could ultimately cost him his job.

“In light of all the information placed before the panel, we conclude that this information discloses, prima facie, that the president may have committed” violations of sections of the constitution, it said in the report published on Wednesday.

The rand weakened as much as 1.6% to an intraday low of 17.2720 per dollar after the report was released.

Lawmakers are scheduled to debate the report’s findings on Dec. 6, and the governing African National Congress will have to decide whether to block its adoption. If it’s accepted, a panel of lawmakers will be established to investigate the president’s conduct and it could take months, or even years to complete its work. The party could, however, decide to sanction the president, or even call on him to step down in the interim.

The scandal bodes ill for the ANC heading into 2024 elections, with surveys showing that the president is far more popular than the party.

A former labor union leader and one of the wealthiest Black South Africans, the 70-year-old Ramaphosa has widely been expected to win a second term as ANC leader when it holds its five-yearly elective conference that begins on Dec. 16. The ANC is scheduled to hold a special meeting of its executive body on Thursday.

Ramaphosa reiterated his denial of any wrongdoing in a statement issued by his office. The presidency said that parliament needs to consider the panel’s findings and determine the most appropriate way forward.

“I have endeavored, throughout my tenure as president, not only to abide by my oath but to set an example of respect for the constitution, for its institutions, for due process and the law,” Ramaphosa said in the statement. “I categorically deny that I have violated this oath in any way, and I similarly deny that I am guilty of any of the allegations made against me.”

 

Some are already calling for Ramaphosa’s resignation, including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the cooperative governance minister whom he narrowly defeated in the ANC’s last party election in late 2017, and Herman Mashaba, leader of the Action SA, a small opposition party. The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition, said it will respond to the report on Thursday.

“While a vote on whether to institute impeachment proceedings against the president requires a 50% majority, we do hope that the ANC in parliament will put party interests aside and abide by the constitutional obligation we all have,” the Democratic Alliance said on Twitter. “This is a defining moment for our democracy.”

The furor erupted in June when Arthur Fraser, the former head of South Africa’s national spy agency, laid charges against Ramaphosa, alleging that he failed to properly report the 2020 theft of more than $4 million from his farm in the northern Limpopo province. The president admitted that $580,000 he made from selling buffalos was stolen.

Opposition parties questioned whether Ramaphosa had broken tax or foreign-exchange laws. Parliament set up the panel to investigate whether there were grounds for the National Assembly to consider removing the president for seriously violating the constitution or gross misconduct, a sanction that would require the backing of two-thirds of lawmakers.

Law-enforcement agencies are also investigating whether Ramaphosa broke any laws and under ANC rules he’ll have to vacate his post if he’s charged.

—With assistance from Mike Cohen and Arijit Ghosh.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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