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South Africa's ruling party to decide Ramaphosa's future over 'Farmgate' scandal

International
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

Senior officials in South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) were gathering on Friday to decide whether President Cyril Ramaphosa should stay on after an inquiry found evidence of misconduct over cash hidden at his farm.

His future has been in doubt since publication on Wednesday of a report by a panel of experts investigating the alleged theft of millions of dollars of cash stuffed into furniture in the multi-millionaire leader's Phala Phala game farm in 2020.

Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. The president has said the money was much less than the $4 million to $8 million reported, and that it was the proceeds of game sales at the farm.

The media has dubbed the affair "Farmgate".

For the investigators, the theft, which only came to light in June, has raised questions about how Ramaphosa acquired the money, why he wasn't keeping it in a bank and whether or not it had been declared to authorities.

Ramaphosa put a pledge to fight endemic graft at the heart of his successful drive to oust predecessor Jacob Zuma in 2018.

More than 80 officials from the ANC's senior entity, the National Executive Committee (NEC), were meeting in Johannesburg, the ANC announced.

The scandal has damaged South Africa's image as a relatively stable investment destination and gateway to the continent. The country was only just recovering from several corruption scandals linked to Zuma, which authorities are now investigating. Zuma denies wrongdoing.

ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe, in an interview with local television station Newzroom Afrika on Friday, denied that Ramaphosa was considering resigning.

Mantashe later told public broadcaster SABC that the report had a lot of holes and could be challenged.

Mantashe said Ramaphosa was giving space for the report to be interrogated and tested.

"My own view is that it would be premature for the president to just step down without a due process," Mantashe, a powerful political figure who also serves as energy and mines minister in Ramaphosa's cabinet, told Newzroom Afrika.

South African financial markets stabilised on Friday, after Thursday's panic-selling on speculation in local media that Ramaphosa was considering leaving.

Two ministers in Ramaphosa's cabinet, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma's ex-wife who narrowly lost the ANC's 2017 leadership contest to Ramaphosa, and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who has campaigned to be elected ANC leader this month, have called on the president to step down.

If Ramaphosa survives Friday's NEC meeting, which seems likely given the strength of his support, he could still face impeachment in a drawn-out process but is likely to survive even that action given the ANC's dominance of parliament.

 

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