Ramaphosa vows to fight impeachment report and seek reelection

JOHANNESBURG — President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said on Saturday he would not resign, instead contesting a parliamentary report suggesting he may have illegally covered up a crime at his private game farm, ending days of speculation that he was more likely to could resign as charges.

Mr Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, said in a statement that the president would heed the call of his supporters within the African National Congress and remain in office while he continues to seek re-election as party leader.

“The President has accepted this call with humility and great care and dedication to continue to serve his organization, the ANC, and the people of South Africa.” said Mr. Magwenya.

The President’s decision to stand his ground caps a roller-coaster week during which the report was released and Mr Ramaphosa appeared inclined to step down. However, his closest advisers encouraged him to defend himself against allegations that he had violated his oath of office.

Mr Ramaphosa has yet to appear publicly since the report was released on Wednesday and his office said he would address the nation soon. He has previously denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

Now Mr. Ramaphosa, a billionaire investor who was one of Nelson Mandela’s favorite allies and once a champion of good governance, must quickly refocus his campaign to win a second term as ANC leader. The party, which has been in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, will convene the conference at which it will elect its leaders in less than two weeks in Johannesburg. Mr. Ramaphosa had a comfortable lead over the competition before the report was released.

Written by two former judges and a lawyer, the report examined allegations that Mr Ramaphosa was trying to cover up the theft of a large sum of US currency hidden in a sofa on a game farm he owns. The President denied any wrongdoing after the February 2020 burglary. He said $580,000 was stolen, which a Sudanese businessman paid for 20 buffaloes, and he reported this to the head of the President’s Protection Service, believing that a formal report doing this would have consequences. He also argued that he does not receive any salary from the game farm and that it is something he is passionate about.

But the panel said Mr Ramaphosa’s story had many loopholes, raising doubts as to whether the money stolen actually came from the sale of buffalo. The report says the president may have violated the constitution’s ban on public officials conducting private business, and he may also have violated anti-corruption laws that required him to report theft to police.

The president’s allies have openly dismissed the report’s findings, saying they were based on speculation and nothing conclusive to suggest the president did anything wrong. His legal team was busy this weekend preparing a brief asking a judge to consider the report and throw it out.

“It is in the long-term interests and sustainability of our constitutional democracy, and well beyond the Ramaphosa presidency, that such a clearly flawed report be challenged,” Mr Magwenya said.

Even though Mr. Ramaphosa vows to carry on, he still faces a precarious fate. ANC leaders are scheduled to meet on Sunday and Monday to discuss the report and decide what stance the organization will take towards its leader. On Tuesday, parliament will debate the report’s findings, and analysts say lawmakers are likely to vote to call an indictment hearing.

Mr Ramaphosa would be impeached if two-thirds of MPs in the ANC-controlled parliament voted against him. Since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, no South African president has been subjected to an impeachment trial — let alone removed from office.

Although Mr Ramaphosa could well survive the impeachment trial, he carries a tarnished reputation that could hamper his efforts to retain his party’s leadership and help the ANC retain a national electoral majority in the next election in 2024.

Mr Ramaphosa came to power in the ANC in 2017 and took over the country’s presidency the following year after his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, was rocked by a spate of corruption allegations.

Mr. Ramaphosa set out to purge institutions deemed corrupt, including the national prosecutor’s office and the national financial agency. In October, he unveiled several anti-corruption measures based on recommendations from a judicial commission that had conducted a three-year investigation into public corruption, during which 300 witnesses were interviewed.

Mr. Ramaphosa’s domestic and international agenda endeared him to executives around the world. He was not afraid at times to question what he saw as the West’s paternalistic attitude towards Africa. He insisted that Covid vaccines be manufactured on the continent and that wealthy nations provide significant financial support to poorer countries as they transition to cleaner energy sources.

Still, he always faces strong headwinds at home, particularly within his factional political party. He must navigate these departments if he is to remain in power Conference where analysts predict there will be a close battle for the ANC’s top spot.

A faction of the ANC, made up of supporters of former President Mr Zuma, has long argued that Mr Ramaphosa has done little to implement an agenda designed to help lift the masses in a country where many people are out of work and to fight something through. They were also skeptical of Mr Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption agenda, accusing him of using it as a cover to marginalize his critics within the party.

But Mr Ramaphosa’s allies see him as a bulwark against corruption so rampant in the ANC that it has led to a significant drop in the party’s voter support. They say that if Mr. Ramaphosa resigns, those motivated to enrich themselves from state resources could take over the party.

One of the president’s supporters, Zamani Saul, the chief minister of the Northern Cape province, praised Mr Ramaphosa’s efforts to fight corruption and said he needed to win a second term “to fulfill his mission and steer the country in the right direction.” “

“Many people,” added Mr. Saul, “have faith in him.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/03/us/south-africa-cyril-ramaphosa-impeachment.html Ramaphosa vows to fight impeachment report and seek reelection


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