South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is holding emergency talks after an independent panel called for an impeachment inquiry, saying President Cyril Ramaphosa may have broken the law.
The panel said Wednesday that Ramaphosa needs to explain the theft of at least half a million dollars hidden in a sofa on his game farm. The scandal, known as “farmgate,” has led to calls for the president to step down.
Ahead of the party’s National Executive Committee meeting, ANC chairperson Gwede Manatashe said the report recommending the impeachment inquiry should be examined.
The report from an independent panel says there are questions about the amount of money stolen from the president’s game farm, the source of the money and whether it was declared for tax purposes.
The president says $580,000 was stolen and that the money was from the sale of 20 buffalos to a Sudanese businessman. But former spy boss Arthur Fraser says the amount stolen is between $4 million and $8 million, given to the president and his adviser by several Middle Eastern and African countries.
The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, urged people to wait until an investigation is completed before making a judgment in the case.
“It is correct that no one should be above the law, but to pass final judgment on a person based on what is, in effect, a board of preliminary investigation, which has not made a final determination of the facts, could lead to lawlessness in South Africa,” Makgoba said.
Wayne Duvenage, CEO of anti-corruption group Organization Undoing Tax Abuse, said: “We should be demanding the highest conduct from a president, in which case if that is what we’re looking for, then he should be stepping down and, on top of that, the ANC has been the problem for so long. The fact that we have so many people found wanting and implicated in corruption and maladministration still in positions of power is a serious matter for this country.”
He said citizens must unite and show their displeasure at the polls.
“Civil society has to become very vigilant and protect the gains that we’ve been able to achieve since 2017 and to make sure when 2024 comes we have high voter turnout so that we can remove the ANC from power, because the ANC is the reason why we’re in so much trouble in South Africa,” Duvenage said.
Constitutional law expert and University of Cape Town professor Pierre de Vos said parliamentarians will vote Tuesday on whether to adopt the report and proceed with the impeachment inquiry.
“It’s a party vote, so if the ANC instructs its caucus to vote against such a motion that will be the end of the impeachment motion,” de Vos said.
And does he think President Ramaphosa will survive as his predecessor Jacob Zuma did?
“It’s a political calculation that depends on what happens in the ANC,” de Vos said.
“In the past, though, the ANC and its caucus in the National Assembly, as we know from the Zuma era, has protected its president, the president of the party, from this kind of accountability.”
In an interview with a local TV station Friday, ANC chair Mantashe denied a report that Ramaphosa is considering resigning.
The president has maintained his innocence, with his spokesman saying he wants to do what’s best for the country.