A report by an independent panel appointed by South Africa’s parliament contends that President Cyril Ramaphosa violated his oath of office, which could lead to an impeachment inquiry. The panel finds the president has to answer for the theft of at least a half-million dollars from his game farm that may not have been declared in his taxes.
Following the release of the report, Ramaphosa maintained his innocence and said in a statement he categorically denies violating his oath in any way.
The panel’s report stated that while it did not have all the answers, nor the authority to pursue them, it recommended an impeachment inquiry should proceed to get to the truth.
It noted there are many questions left unanswered, including where the money stolen from the farm had come from and the exact amount in question.
A former spy boss, Arthur Fraser, first brought the issue to light, claiming that between $4 million and $8 million was stolen from a sofa in the president’s farmhouse where it was hidden.
Fraser claimed the money was collected by Ramaphosa’s adviser Bejani Chauke for both him and the president during several trips he made to Middle Eastern and African countries, and it was not declared to authorities.
Ramaphosa, meanwhile, said it was from the sale of 20 buffalo to a Sudanese businessman known as Mr. Hazim who paid $580,000 for them on Christmas Day in 2019. The president said he was not at the farm at the time of the sale.
Ramaphosa said he was in Addis Ababa when he heard about the robbery on February 10, 2020. There are conflicting reports on whether the actual robbery took place on February 9 or February 10.
The panel questioned why no other information about the businessman was made available. And it noted that News24 journalist Kyle Cowan reported that despite “extensive searches, utilizing various databases and online tools, News24 was not able to immediately verify Hazim’s identity.”
One of the political parties that submitted evidence to the panel against the president, the Economic Freedom Fighters, or EFF, welcomed the report.
“There was no purchase of any buffalos, and this is exposed by the fact that two years later, those buffalos are still chilling at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm,” said Leigh-Ann Mathys, an EFF member.
This is something the panel raised, along with the fact the theft of the money from the game farm was not reported to the police but instead was handled by the head of Presidential Protection Services Major-General Wally Rhoode.
It is alleged that once found, several suspects were paid almost $9,000 each to keep quiet about the money.
There are also allegations the suspects were interrogated and tortured.
Political analyst Sanusha Naidoo of the Institute for Global Dialogue said Ramaphosa was hoping to be reelected at the African National Congress, or ANC, elective conference later this month, aiming for a second term as the country’s president.
“Going into 2022 elective conference, he was favored. And so, what happens to the elective? What are we going to do? The impact that this is going to have in the short term on our investment ratings, on our rand,” Naidoo said.
By late afternoon Thursday, the rand had weakened substantially and was trading at about R17.73 to the U.S. dollar.
Naidoo said this scandal is a massive blow to the country, as the president had campaigned globally for investments in South Africa.
“One of the things that has been critical in his gaining these kinds of investment pledges is the road map that he was going to put forward in terms of how this was going to be utilized in a productive, transparent and coherent way in order to stimulate the growth,” Naidoo said.
Another analyst, Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, also weighed in: “The reality of the matter is that his political image has been dented. So, under normal circumstances one would expect him to voluntarily exit the stage as it were, in terms of the elective conference because even if he were to win, that will compromise not just himself as a politician but the ANC as an organization.”
As for the quality of the report, constitutional law expert and University of Cape Town professor Pierre de Vos said while it’s not perfect, it has merit.
“Regardless of the technicalities, the report makes quite a convincing argument that there is a case to answer,” de Vos said.
The South African Revenue Service is also looking into the allegations.