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South Africa President Ramaphosa faces threat of impeachment over ‘Farmgate’ scandal

South Africa President Ramaphosa faces threat of impeachment over ‘Farmgate’ scandal
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa leaves after meeting Britain's Prime Minister Rishi ...   -  
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South Africa

The South African government has announced that it will take action against the country's president, who has been caught up in a scandal, after the publication of a parliamentary report that could lead to his impeachment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa "may have committed" violations and misconduct, a parliamentary committee charged with investigating the murky burglary affair that has embarrassed the president ahead of an election crucial to his political future concluded in a report released late Wednesday.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) meets in mid-December to choose its next leader. Whoever emerges victorious will become head of state after the 2024 general elections, if the ANC, wins the election.

In the wake of the report, which has clearly stunned the Ramaphosa camp, the party's all-powerful National Executive Committee (NEC) has announced an emergency meeting.

So far, the internal voting process seemed to be running smoothly. The announcement by the party last week of only two candidates in the running for its presidency had somewhat dampened the suspense. With Cyril Ramaphosa well ahead of his former health minister, Zweli Mkhize, the road ahead seemed clear.

The president now hangs on the decision of parliament, which meets in extraordinary session on Tuesday to examine the report's recommendations, which it is not obliged to follow but which could lead it to initiate a process for a vote to remove the head of state from office.

This process, if it were to be initiated, would however have little chance of succeeding, as Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC holds a comfortable majority in parliament.

Calls for his resignation from both the opposition and members of the ANC have multiplied.

- Low profile -

In the wake of the report's release, the presidency immediately called for a "careful reading and proper consideration" of the document, "in the interest of the stability of the government and the country".

It promised announcements "in due course" but for the moment seems to want to keep a low profile. A press briefing scheduled for Thursday to "address current issues of interest to the public and the media" has been cancelled.

A question time with the president in the upper house of the Assembly was promptly postponed.

Sessions in parliament in recent months have been stormy for Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been vehemently attacked over suspicions of wrongdoing.

The case dates back to 2020. In February, burglars broke into one of his luxury properties. Wads of cash were found under the cushions of a sofa.

The head of state is accused of not reporting the incident to either the police or the tax authorities.

Mr Ramaphosa "categorically denies" that he did anything wrong. In an official statement to the committee, which conveniently leaked on the day of the parliamentary report and of which AFP has a copy, he details his version of events.

According to him, a Sudanese businessman bought buffaloes from his estate where he raises game and cattle in the north-east of the country. "He chose the ones he liked and paid the amount of 580,000 dollars in cash," the president explained.

The money was hidden "under the cushions of a sofa in a little-used room", by an employee who considered this a safer hiding place than the property's safe.

Cyril Ramaphosa is also the subject of a criminal investigation by the South African police's elite Hawks unit.

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