Cyril Ramaphosa faces impeachment over cash stolen from his farm

Johannesburg, South Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to root out corruption. Now he may be forced to quit amid claims he covered up the theft of a vast amount of cash from his lucrative game farm, which he says was stuffed into a leather sofa.

The South African president is under investigation in an ongoing scandal linked to the theft of more than $500,000 in cash from his private game farm in 2020. The cash was stuffed into a leather sofa, according to the panel’s investigation.

The panel, headed by a former chief justice, found that the crime was not reported to police and that there was a “conscious decision to keep the investigation secret”.

Former South African spy chief Arthur Fraser claimed the theft was colluded with a domestic worker and claimed the theft was concealed from police and the Inland Revenue. Fraser, whose allegations were detailed in an inquest report, said Ramaphosa paid the culprits for their silence.

Ramaphosa has claimed the cash came from the sale of buffalo at his phala phala farm to a Sudanese businessman and that the theft was reported to the president’s security chief.

The President also denies claims by Fraser that the amount hidden on his farm was more than $4 million.

“Some make slander about me and money. I want to assure you that this was all money from the sale of animals. Never have I ever stolen money from anywhere. Be it from our taxpayers, be it from anyone. I have never done that. And he never will,” he said, speaking to members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in June this year.

He is a well-known owner and dealer of rare buffalo, cattle and other wildlife and has become a multi-millionaire through his private buffalo farm.

The panel found that the statements presented by Ramaphosa were not sufficient and that a second income as president could have violated the constitution and his oath of office.

The ANC’s top leaders are due to meet later on Thursday to discuss the report, and although the party has a “step down” rule for wrongdoing, the ANC’s national spokesman Pule Mabe told local television they were only available to those apply who are “criminal charges” .”

Ramaphosa was recently feted at Buckingham Palace during King Charles’ first state visit, but closer to home, the scandal threatens to end his political career and speculation is rife in political circles across the country that he could step down.

The ANC’s election conference to choose its leadership is due to take place in mid-December, but is likely to be dominated by the President’s problems.

South Africa’s official opposition leader quickly called for impeachment and early elections.

“The report is clear and unambiguous. President Ramaphosa has most likely violated a number of constitutional provisions and has a case to answer. The impeachment process against his behavior must continue, and he will have to offer far better and fuller explanations than we have received so far,” said John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance.

The panel was set up by the Speaker of Parliament at the request of a smaller opposition party.

The National Assembly will consider the report and may start impeachment proceedings – although the ANC holds a majority of the seats.

Ramaphosa took office after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was forced to resign amid multiple corruption allegations.

Ramaphosa, a former union leader and multi-millionaire from his business career, has repeatedly said fighting corruption is a priority of his presidency.

But the ANC has by all accounts been split by factional politics during his tenure. Some allies of former President Zuma are now openly calling for Ramaphosa’s resignation.

Shortly after the release of the report’s findings, Ramaphosa’s office reiterated its statement to the panel: “Throughout my tenure as President, I have endeavored not only to keep my oath, but to set an example of respect for the Constitution, its institutions, for due process and the law. I categorically deny that I have violated this oath in any way, and I also deny that I am guilty of any allegations made against me.”

The Office of the Presidency said Ramaphosa would review the report and make an announcement “in due course.”

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