A muted reaction to a speech of Cyril Ramaphosa at a major political conference on Friday suggested all was not well. He acknowledged that his party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), was “at its weakest point” but that the president himself was in the firing line.
Four years ago, he replaced corruption-ridden Jacob Zuma as president by promising to be clean.
But now he has his own potentially explosive corruption scandal. The controversy dubbed the “Farmtor”, revolves around an alleged cover-up of a theft that occurred at his private farm, Phala Phala, in February 2020. This is happening in a year when the ANC will choose its presidential candidate for the 2024 elections and Ramaphosa is becoming increasingly critical.
After a long resistance, he finally answered questions about the incident of the country’s top anti-corruption official, known as the Public Protector.
Kholeka Gcaleka threatened to sue the president for failing to meet the initial response deadline.
The robbery and the alleged aftermath were first exposed in June by Arthur Fraser, the former head of the country’s state security service.
The former spy chief, a close ally of Zuma, accused the president of kidnapping, corruption, and wrongdoing by authorizing the pursuit of suspects who stole around $ 4 million (£ 3.2 million) from his farm. Mr. Fraser further claimed that such a sum of money that would have been stuffed into pillows could have come from money laundering and corruption.
The theft is believed to have been committed by Namibian nationals conspiring with a domestic worker at the farm.
‘No criminal behavior’
Since the stolen money was apparently in foreign currencies, this means that exchange control laws may also have been violated.
In an initial response, the president said there was “no basis to the allegation of criminal behavior”.
Mr. Ramaphosa’s office confirmed there was a robbery at his farm in Limpopo province “in which proceeds from the sale of wild game were stolen”, but disputed the figure put forward by Mr. Fraser Former South African Presidents Thabo Mbeki (L) and Kgalema Motlanthe (R) shared a platform with Mr. Ramaphosa at the ANC policy conference
Some of the questions from the state protector were about whether the president violated the code of ethics and the constitution by covering up the burglary at his farm. She also wanted to know the president’s steps to ensure the theft is fully investigated.
The president has dismissed Mr. Fraser’s allegations as a political smear campaign against him by those who oppose his anti-corruption agenda. He also believes that his political opponents within the ANC do not want him to serve a second term.
In a speech two weeks ago, Mr. Ramaphosa said he was ‘undertaking to cooperate fully with the investigation’ and said he was happy to be held accountable. In a veiled declaration of internal war within the ANC, the president also said he “would not allow allegations [of corruption] to stop me from doing what needs to be done to rebuild our economy and prevent me from working and I must be discouraged”. Mr. Ramaphosa was cheered on by his supporters.
Under ANC rules, anyone accused of corruption or any other crime must resign while investigations take place.
Although the president has not been formally charged with any crime, Zuma supporters want him to resign.
Last month, hundreds of them demonstrated outside the headquarters of the ANC, demanding his arrest and his resignation. Zuma, whose corruption trial is due to resume this month, enjoys the support of a left-wing faction of the ANC, and his supporters are still suffering as he was jailed last year for contempt of court for failing to participate in a separate investigation during his presidency. corruption had participated. He served nearly two months of a 15-month sentence before being released on medical parole.
His call for the resignation was further pushed at home when some delegates later booed Mr. Ramaphosa at a conference in KwaZulu-Natal province – a Zuma stronghold.
“An attack on the image of the country”
The opposition is also putting pressure on the president.
Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the United Democratic Movement, has written to the speaker of parliament asking for the suspension of the president pending an investigation against him. “The allegations have seriously tarnished the image of the country and are likely to negatively affect investor confidence, as President Ramaphosa acted as an advocate of good governance,” Mr. Holomisa said.
Although President Ramaphosa has questions to answer over the dollars stolen from his farm, Mr. Fraser’s timing is widely seen as suspect given the competition for the leadership of the ANC.
South Africans grew accustomed to explosive scandals, conspiracies, and slander before the ANC’s brutal race to the top spot. This year is no different.
In December, the ANC will hold an electoral conference to determine who will be its next presidential candidate, and tensions are guaranteed