Opposition leaders in South Africa are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to resign amid allegations of a robbery coverup. Leaders of his party, the African National Congress, were discussing his future.
Leaders of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) won’t decide until at least Sunday if they would continue to back President Cyril Ramaphosa who is facing mounting pressure to step down.
He is accused of a cover-up of a robbery at his farm involving millions of dollars in cash.
The ANC national executive committee (NEC) held an emergency session on Friday, two days after a parliamentary panel report found preliminary evidence of misconduct.
Treasurer general Paul Mashatile told the media the meeting, which ended abruptly shortly after it started, decided that the report should first be processed by the party’s top officials before the NEC meets again on Sunday.
Ramaphosa did not attend Friday’s gathering.
Ramaphosa denied any wrongdoing
The parliamentary probe looked into the theft of a large amount of money from Ramaphosa’s private farm, Phala Phala, in 2020. An estimated $4 million (€3.85 million) was taken during the robbery, raising questions about how the president acquired the cash and whether he declared it.
Opposition parties and even some in his own party called for him to step down after the report was presented to parliament’s Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, said the president, who steadfastly denied any wrongdoing, was not “panicking” and his decision would not be “rushed.”
He added Ramaphosa “is looking at a number of options and… consulting with a number of role players” in the ANC.
Ramaphosa’s fight within the ANC
Before Wednesday’s revelations, Ramaphosa was the clear favorite to lead the ANC into elections in 2024 and secure a second presidential term.
He, however, has many detractors including members of his cabinet, who are also set to attend Friday’s meeting.
They include cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who wrote on Twitter, Ramaphosa “has to step aside now and answer to the case.”
Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who has campaigned to be the next ANC leader, even called for his resignation even before the panel’s report was made public on Wednesday.
Professor Dirk Kotze, a political scientist at the University of South Africa, told news outlet Netwerk24, Ramaphosa was probably trying to determine “to what extend to what extent he has been painted into a corner by the report and whether he could convince his supporters that it is problematic.”
The NEC, the ANC’s highest decision-making body, however, “recalled” or forced two previous presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma to step down.
“To resign, or to be recalled from office by the ANC, on the basis of this flawed report would create a very unfortunate precedent and would undermine the principle of constitutional accountability rather than serve it,” Richard Calland, associate professor in public law at the University of Cape Town, wrote in the Daily Maverick.
He added “Ramaphosa has to want it enough. He has to have the stomach for the fight.”
Possible impeachment proceedings
The president would face opposition lawmakers in parliament next week.
They were scheduled to debate the report on Tuesday and would vote on whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings.
It was after the robbery at Ramaphosa’s farm was first brought to light earlier this year that a small opposition party the African Transformation Movement called for Ramaphosa’s removal.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula then appointed the panel in September to assess whether or not there was a case for Ramaphosa to answer.
After Wednesday’s report the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance called for the president to be recalled.
“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.
Several other parties including the Economic Freedom Fighters and Action SA has called on the president to resign or be impeached.
The ANC however holds the majority in parliament and it was unlikely that Ramaphosa would be impeached as long as he has their support.
However, Ramaphosa could still be criminally charged. in a separate police probe into the allegations.
lo/ (AFP, AP, Reuters)