More calls for South African president to quit over theft probe

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More Calls For South African President To Quit Over Theft Probe More Calls For South African President To Quit Over Theft Probe
Cyril Ramaphosa, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Mogomotsi Magome, Associated Press

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing calls to step down after a parliamentary panel’s investigation found he may have breached anti-corruption laws in connection with the alleged theft of a large amount of money from his farm.

The calls follow allegations by the country’s former head of intelligence, Arthur Fraser, that Mr Ramaphosa tried to conceal the theft of a huge sum of cash stuffed into couches at his Phala Phala game farm in 2020.

Mr Fraser accused the president of money laundering and violating foreign currency control laws.

In its report, the parliamentary panel raised questions about the source of the money and why it was not disclosed to financial authorities, and cited a potential conflict between the president’s business and official interests.

Mr Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing, insisting the money from the sale of animals at his farm, but opposition parties and his detractors in the ruling African National Congress have called for him to step down.

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The ANC’s national executive committee, the party’s highest decision-making body, is expected to meet later to be briefed on the matter and possibly to determine his fate.

Mr Ramaphosa is seeking re-election as party leader during the ANC’s upcoming conference, which would enable him to run again for South Africa’s presidency in 2024.

Legislators are expected to debate the report on Tuesday, and will vote on whether further action should be taken, including whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings.

ANC lawmakers are a majority in parliament and may push back against attempts to impeach their leader.

“The president appreciates the enormity of this issue and what it means for the country and the stability of government,” his spokesman Vincent Magwenya told reporters, adding that the president is “still processing” the report.

“We are in an unprecedented and extraordinary moment as a constitutional democracy as a result of the report, and therefore whatever decision the president takes, it has to be informed by the best interest of the country. That decision cannot be rushed,” Mr Magwenya said.

According to the parliamentary report, Mr Ramaphosa claimed the money amounted to £472,000, disputing the initial amount of £3.2 million that Mr Fraser alleged was stolen.

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The report also questioned the president’s explanation that the money was from the sale of buffalos to a Sudanese businessman, Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, asking why the animals remained at the farm more than two years later.

The report said an investigation by the central bank suggested there were no records of the money entering the country. “We are unable to investigate or verify the source of the foreign currency,” it said.

The parliamentary panel said Mr Ramaphosa put himself into a situation of conflict of interest, adding that the evidence “establishes that the president may be guilty of a serious violation of certain sections of the constitution”.

The report criticised Mr Ramaphosa for failing to inform police in line with proper procedures, choosing instead to entrust the matter to the head of his presidential protection unit.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is among those calling for Mr Ramaphosa’s impeachment.

“President Ramaphosa most likely did breach a number of constitutional provisions and has a case to answer. Impeachment proceedings into his conduct must go ahead, and he will have to offer far better, more comprehensive explanations than we have been given so far,” Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said.

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