ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the inaugural address during the African National Congress (ANC) National Policy Conference at the Nasrek Expo Center on July 29, 2022 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is in trouble.
A weak response to a speech at a major policy conference on Friday indicated that all was not well. He acknowledged that his party, the governing African National Congress (ANC), was “the weakest”, but the president himself is in the firing line.
Four years ago, he replaced the corruption-tainted Jacob Zuma as president on a promise to be clean.
But now he has his own potentially explosive corruption scandal. Dubbed “Farmgate”, the controversy surrounds an alleged cover-up of a robbery that took place at his private farm, Fala Fala, back in February 2020.
It is taking place in a year as the ANC prepares to pick its presidential candidate for the 2024 election and Mr Ramaphosa is under increasing scrutiny.
After dragging his feet, he finally answered questions about the incident from the country’s top anti-corruption official, known as the Public Protector.
Khloka Gakleka threatened to summon the president after he failed to meet the initial deadline to respond.
The robbery and the alleged aftermath were first brought to light in June by Arthur Fraser, the country’s former head of the state security agency.
The former spy chief, who is a close aide of Zuma, accused the president of acting illegally by allegedly authorizing him to pursue suspects of kidnapping, bribery and stealing an estimated $4m (£3.2m) from his farm. charged up.
Mr Fraser further alleged that such a large amount, which was allegedly stuffed into the pillow, could be money laundering and corruption proceeds.
The theft was allegedly committed by Namibian nationals who conspired with a domestic worker on the farm.
‘No criminal conduct’
Since the stolen cash was allegedly in foreign currency, this meant that exchange control laws could also have been violated.
In an initial response, the president stated that “the claims of criminal conduct had no basis”.
Mr Ramaphosa’s office confirmed that there had been a robbery at his farm in Limpopo province “in which proceeds from the sale of the game were stolen”, but disputed the figures given by Mr Fraser.
Former South African Presidents Thabo Mbakai (L) and Kaglema Motlanthe (R) share a stage with Mr Ramaphosa at the ANC Policy Conference
Some of the questions raised by the public protector relate to whether the President has violated the Code of Conduct and the Constitution by hiding the break-in at his farm. She also wanted to know what steps the President took to ensure a thorough investigation of the theft.
The president dismissed Mr Fraser’s allegations as a political smear campaign against him by those opposing his anti-corruption agenda. He also believes that his political opponents inside the ANC do not want him to have a second term.
In a speech two weeks ago, Mr Ramaphosa said he had “promised his full cooperation in the investigation” and was happy to be held accountable.
In a veiled declaration of an internal war within the ANC, the president also stated that he “will not allow [corruption] For accusations of what I need to do to rebuild my economy, and to stop and discourage me from doing the things I do. Mr Ramaphosa was cheered on by his supporters.
According to the rules of the ANC, anyone charged with corruption or other offenses must step down during an investigation.
Even though the president has not been formally charged with any crimes, Zuma’s supporters want him to resign.
Last month, hundreds of people protested at the ANC headquarters demanding his arrest and resignation.
Zuma, whose corruption trial is set to resume this month, has the backing of a left-wing ANC faction and his supporters are still in contempt of court during his presidency for failing to join a separate investigation into corruption. for escaping from jail last year. He served nearly two months of a 15-month sentence before being released on medical parole.
Demands for his resignation were further strengthened when some delegates later denounced Ramaphosa at a conference in KwaZulu-Natal province, a stronghold of Zuma.
‘Bad image of the country’
The opposition is also targeting the President.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa wrote a letter to the Speaker of Parliament demanding that the President be suspended until the results of the investigation against him.
“The allegations are very destructive to the country’s image and are likely to negatively affect investor confidence, given that President Ramaphosa has acted as a champion of good governance,” Mr. Holomisa said.
Although President Ramaphosa has questions to answer about the dollars stolen from his farm, Mr Fraser’s time is widely seen as suspicious in light of the ANC’s leadership competition.
South Africans have become accustomed to explosive scandals, conspiracies and mud-slinging before a brutal race for the top post of the ANC.
This year is no different.
In December, the ANC will hold an optional convention to choose who will be its next presidential candidate and tensions are guaranteed.