President Cyril Ramaphosa’s political future was thrown out of balance on Friday as he questioned whether he would cling to power or resign over accusations that he tried to cover up a farm robbery.
On Thursday, the 70-year-old head of state was rumored to be close to resigning in the face of calls to resign – but by Friday morning, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction as allies urged him to keep fighting. It seemed to sway.
The African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, will hold an emergency meeting of its decision-making bodies at 1200 GMT to discuss the crisis that is deepening the division of political parties. was
Ramaphosa has been under attack since June when his former spy boss filed a police complaint, claiming he hid the theft of cash from his farm in Farafara, northeastern South Africa.
Instead of alerting authorities, he allegedly organized a robbery to be kidnapped and bribed into silence. Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing.
Matthole Motshekga, an ANC lawmaker and Ramaphosa ally, told AFP on Friday that “there is no de facto and legal basis (for him to resign).”
After the Independent Commission released its report on the scandal, the rand gained some gains against the dollar early on Friday after a sharp decline the day before.
Late Thursday, Ramaphosa spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the president, who is in a meeting with ANC leaders, is weighing all options.
A spokesman said the announcement was “imminent” but stressed that the president was not “panicked”.
Magwenya said the decision will not be taken “in a hurry” but for the “stability” of the country and government.
“ANC executives don’t want him to leave,” an ANC executive told AFP late Thursday on condition of anonymity.
An influential head of the Church of England also called for the president to remain in office.
“No one should be under the rule of law, but making final judgments on a person based on a de facto preliminary committee that has not made a de facto final decision will lead to lawlessness in South Africa. It’s possible,” said Thabo McGova, successor to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
– Cash Undercushion –
The president denied wrongdoing and said the charges against him were “unfounded.”
However, he admitted that $580,000 in cash (which he said was for water buffalo purchased by a Sudanese citizen) had been stolen from under the cushions of his ranch sofa.
After Jacob Zuma’s corruption-ridden days, Ramaphosa’s attempt to portray himself as a corruption-free man is overshadowed by a huge amount of money.
On Wednesday, a three-member special committee tasked with investigating the incident submitted a report to Congress.
Ramaphosa “could have committed” serious violations and misconduct by not reporting the theft directly to police and instead asking his Namibian counterpart for help in apprehending the thief, it concluded.
Congress is due to consider the report on Tuesday.
This debate could lead to a vote on his removal. For this to succeed, at least two-thirds of his MPs would need to support the motion.
The scandal came at the worst possible time for Ramaphosa, who seemed poised to secure re-election at the helm of the ANC.
The ANC has been in power for 28 years and has experienced a decline in approval ratings, but a vote for a new leader is scheduled for Dec. 16.
– ‘life goes on’ –
“The president is overwhelmingly in favor of re-election,” said ANC lawmaker Motshekga, who said the panel’s report was “inconclusive.”
“We will go to Congress on Tuesday and just reject the report and life will go on.”
Ramaphosa took over the helm of Africa’s most industrialized economy in 2018 and vowed to root out the corruption that has taken root across state institutions.
He now risks becoming the third ANC leader since the party came to power after the end of apartheid.
Ramaphosa’s predecessor, Zuma, dodged four impeachment votes before the ANC forced him to resign in 2018 on corruption grounds.
The ANC also overthrew Thabo Mbeki in 2008 during a power struggle.