By Kopano Gumbi and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo
JOHANNESBURG (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Leaders of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) met on Friday after an inquiry found evidence that President Cyril Ramaphosa may have committed misconduct, but they delayed a decision if he were to stay in place.
Ramphosa’s future was cast in doubt by the release Wednesday of a report by a panel of experts who investigated revelations that he kept millions of dollars in cash on his private hunting farm and failed to even report them missing when the money was stolen from the property in 2020.
The existence of the money at Phala Phala’s farm and his failure to report the theft to the police only emerged in June.
Ramaphosa, who did not attend Friday’s brief meeting, denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any offence. The president said the money was far less than the $4 million to $8 million reported and that it was the proceeds from game sales at the farm.
The media dubbed the affair “Farmgate”.
Following the ruling party’s National Executive Committee meeting, ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile said the group would meet again before December 6 to discuss the report, which will be debated in parliament that day.
“We want to deal with it properly, we don’t want to miss any steps,” Mashatile told reporters, adding that party officials need to look into the report further.
“The vibe was that there’s a sense of urgency, that we should fix these issues so we can continue with the responsibilities of running the country.”
The South African rand and government bonds rebounded on Friday after panic selling Thursday on local media speculation that Ramaphosa was considering stepping down.
Investors fear uncertainty and that any president other than Ramaphosa could slow or reverse economic reforms, increase government spending and take on more debt to levels they deem unsustainable. Despite the doubts raised about Ramaphosa’s integrity, he is still seen by investors at home and abroad as cleaner than any of his rivals.
ANC CLOSES RANKS
Prominent figures whom analysts consider close allies of Ramaphosa closed ranks around the president on Friday.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana told RockedBuzz via Reuters in an interview that he thought Ramaphosa should continue with his work, doing everything possible to defend himself against the panel’s report, including possible legal action.
He tried to reassure financial markets that no changes to the fiscal framework were imminent and that he would be willing to stay on as finance minister even if Ramaphosa resigned.
ANC President Gwede Mantashe, in an interview with local TV station Newzroom Afrika, denied that Ramaphosa was considering stepping down and said the president was giving space for the report to be questioned and tested.
“My view is that it would be premature for the president to step down without due process,” said Mantashe, who serves as minister of energy and mines in Ramaphosa’s cabinet.
Two other ministers in Ramaphosa’s cabinet, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the ex-wife of former President Jacob Zuma who narrowly lost the ANC leadership contest in 2017 to Ramaphosa, and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who campaigned to be elected leader of the ANC at a party conference this month , they called on the president to step down.
If Ramaphosa survives the ANC’s deliberations, which seems likely given the strength of his support, he could still face impeachment in a protracted trial. But he is also likely to survive that action given the ANC’s dominance of parliament.
(Additional reporting by Tim Cocks, Alexander Winning, Bhargav Acharya and Rachel Savage in Johannesburg and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; editing by James Macharia Chege, Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)
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