President Cyril Ramaphosa during a breakfast briefing ahead of the World Economic Forum on January 18, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Moeletsi Mabe | Sunday hours | Gallo Pictures | Getty Images
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa could face impeachment after an independent panel found he may have breached anti-corruption law while investigating a robbery at his farm.
In what has become known as the “Farmgate” scandal, Ramaphosa allegedly covered up the theft of $4 million from his Phala Phala farm in the northeast of the country in 2020. Some $580,000 of that was stolen. found under sofa cushions, and also allegations of working with Namibian authorities to apprehend, torture and bribe the suspects.
Ramaphosa categorically denies the allegations and has not been charged with any crime. He argues that the money was proceeds from the sale of bison. He confirmed the theft took place, but insists the amount stolen was less than alleged and denies being involved in a cover-up.
Ramaphosa delayed a scheduled parliamentary appearance on Thursday to consider the panel’s findings, while his spokesman Vincent Magwenya also canceled a scheduled press conference.
“I have endeavored throughout my tenure as President not only to uphold my oath, but to set an example of respect for the Constitution, its institutions, due process and the law,” Ramaphosa said in a statement Wednesday.
“I categorically deny having violated this oath in any way, and I also deny being guilty of any of the allegations made against me.”
The panel was appointed under article 89 of the constitution by the speaker of parliament to consider whether the president should be impeached, after Arthur Fraser, the former head of the country’s State Security Agency and close ally of former President Jacob Zuma, filed a complaint. with the police in June.
Its final report on Wednesday recommended that the president have a case to answer, concluding that the information he saw establishes a prima facie case that “there was a deliberate intention not to openly investigate the commission of the crimes at Phala. Phala”.
“The President abused his position as Head of State to have the matter investigated and to request the assistance of the Namibian President to apprehend a suspect,” according to the panel report.
“There was more foreign currency concealed in the sofa than the amount stated in the receipt. This raises the source of the additional currency.”
Namibian President Hage Geingob issued a statement in June in response to Fraser’s complaint, in which he categorically denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations “libelous” and politically motivated.
“The President of the Republic of Namibia shall liaise with other Heads of State on official matters, within the framework of established diplomatic protocols between States, in accordance with the constitutional powers of the President and the precepts of international practices for cooperation mutual between heads of state. State and government,” the statement from Geingob’s office read.
“The Presidency therefore categorically denies the insinuations that President Geingob acted inappropriately and/or participated in or encouraged the arrest of the individuals concerned.”
The report concluded that Ramaphosa may have committed a “serious breach” of section 34(1) of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act (PRECCA), which imposes on “persons in a position of authority” to report corrupt activities such as theft, fraud, extortion or forgery.
“We believe the president has a case to answer on the origin of the foreign currency that was stolen, as well as the underlying transaction,” the panel said.
He also suggested that Ramaphosa may have committed “gross misconduct” by “exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private affairs”, and may have violated the constitution by “acting in a manner inconsistent with his load”. “
The report will now be considered by the country’s National Assembly to determine the most appropriate course of action, which could lead to impeachment.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) will hold a party conference from December 16-20 that will decide whether Ramaphosa, who entered office on an anti-corruption platform, can run for a second term.
The political unrest comes as Ramaphosa attempts to push through long-overdue economic reforms aimed at bolstering the country’s energy and food security, infrastructure and job creation.