If charged over Phala Phala, Ramaphosa will step aside, but only then

ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa is happy to go quietly into that good night – relinquishing the race for the ANC’s top post – should he be charged over Phala Phala. The president is facing mounting investigations relating to the theft of hundreds of thousands (on his version) or potentially millions of US dollars (according to Arthur Fraser) from his Limpopo game farm. The mystery around this money, no matter the amount – stuffed into a couch or a similar piece of furniture – continues to boggle the mind. He has yet to say anything of substance to the nation that could explain why he didn’t deposit the money into a bank account if its origins were bona fide. SARS and the Reserve Bank are all remaining tight-lipped on the issue. But clearly, he’s in trouble, the extent to which must still be determined. All Ramaphosa will tell Parliament is that he “categorically denies that he violated this oath [of office] in any way, and denies that he is guilty of any of the allegations made against him”. His Phala Phala skeletons couldn’t have come at a worse time. Perhaps that was the idea when Fraser laid the charges in June this year, knowing December is D-Day for his second-term aspirations. His political enemies – many of whom seek to replace Ramaphosa – sought to force him out of the elective conference race but failed. But it is complicated. There are two instances in which a person must step aside from a position or which makes them ineligible to run: if they are charged or if the ANC’s Integrity Commission makes a ruling to that effect. Reportedly, that commission within the party has not yet made a ruling. According to reports, the acting Public Protector told Ramaphosa not to say anything to anyone while investigations are pending. – Michael Appel

Ramaphosa eludes ANC censure over game farm robbery scandal

By S’thembile Cele and Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa survived a bid by some of the governing party’s top leaders to force him to temporarily vacate his post over a scandal surrounding a robbery at his game farm in 2020.

Allegations that Ramaphosa covered up the theft of foreign exchange at the farm in the northern Limpopo province were discussed at a three-day meeting of African National Congress’s national executive committee, according to three members of the panel, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to comment. A proposal that the president step aside pending the outcome of investigations into the robbery was quashed by his allies, who said party rules would only require him to do so if he’s charged, they said. 

Ramaphosa told the NEC that the stolen money was the proceeds of an animal sale to a Sudanese businessman, according to the people, echoing what he told the nation’s graft ombudsman, who is also probing the allegations. The president, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, didn’t address the matter in his closing address to the conference on Sunday. 

Pule Mabe, the ANC’s spokesman, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone or respond to text messages seeking comment. The party has scheduled a media briefing for later on Monday.

The focus now shifts to parliament, which is set to receive a report this week from a three-member panel it appointed to determine whether there are possible grounds for Ramaphosa to be impeached. Opposition parties have questioned whether the president violated foreign exchange or tax rules. 

The ANC, which has ruled Africa’s most industrialized nation since the end of White-minority rule in 1994, is due to hold its five-yearly elective conference next month and Ramaphosa is widely expected to seek a second term as its leader. The party may announce the candidates who have met the nominations thresholds to contest leadership posts at Monday’s briefing.  

The meeting of the NEC was its first in-person gathering since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The attendees included former President Thabo Mbeki, who had suggested that the party should consider its options in the eventuality that Ramaphosa is charged.

The president will “gladly”vacate his post if he‘s prosecuted, but as things stand there is no criminal case against him, his spokesman Vincent Magwenya told reporters on Sunday.

With assistance from Arijit Ghosh and Khuleko Siwele

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