Can scandal-hit Ramaphosa survive as South Africa’s president? | Political news

by MMC
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Johannesburg, South Africa – In December, the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s ruling party, will hold its elective conference, and key provinces have indicated they will support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to be re-elected as party leader.

But a personal scandal could see him face an impeachment vote before the conference even takes place.

On June 1, 2022, the former head of the national intelligence agency, Arthur Fraser, filed a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa, accusing him of money laundering and bribery to cover up a robbery in February 2020 on his game farmin which it is alleged that $4 million in illicit cash was stolen.

Ramaphosa later issued a statement confirm a flight took place at his Phala Phala farm, but denying any wrongdoing.

The opposition wants Ramaphosa to answer questions about the scandal. But the president also faces several investigative agencies, including the elite crime-fighting agency the Hawks, as well as the Public Protector’s office and the South African Reserve Bank.

In August, Ramaphosa refused to answer questions in Parliament regarding the burglary and reiterated that he wanted “law enforcement investigating the matter to be given the space to do their job”.

On September 9, several opposition parties marched to the office of the acting public protector, Kholeka Gcaleka, to demand the release of a report into the alleged theft.

But while law enforcement is busy investigating various aspects of the burglary, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has appointed a independent panel which includes the country’s highest judge, former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, to conduct a preliminary assessment on whether Ramaphosa should face an impeachment inquiry for alleged misconduct related to the burglary .

The three-person panel has not yet begun its evaluation, but will have 30 days from when it begins reporting to the speaker. If the panel recommends impeachment, a special parliamentary committee then decides to call an impeachment vote in Parliament. If at least two-thirds of lawmakers support the motion, the president must be immediately removed from office.

Although the ANC still has a parliamentary majority – with 230 seats out of 400 – Ramaphosa has enemies within the party, the scandal has sparked public outcry and impeachment proceedings are likely to be completed before the ANC’s elective conference. ANC.

“Ramaphosa must go”

In the South African political system, there are no direct presidential elections. The leader of the majority party in Parliament becomes president.

Since the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994, Nelson Mandela and Kgalema Motlanthe are the only presidents not to be removed from power.

Former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were both forced to resign following allegations of misconduct.

Ramaphosa took office in 2018 after defeating a Zuma-backed candidate in the ANC general election and vowed to root out corruption in the state.

He went through a difficult few years, tasked with leading the country through Covid-19 pandemic as well as facing high unemployment, violence and crime, major unrest, crippling power outages and internal ANC feuds.

But the Phala Phala farm scandal now poses the biggest threat to his presidency.

The public was outraged by the scandal, with #RamaphosaMustGo and #PhalaPhalaFarm regularly trending on social media and demonstrators calling on him to withdraw.

Opposition political parties have called for his resignation, with the loudest demands coming from Julius Malema, a former leader of the ANC youth league who now leads the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters party.

“Ramaphosa must know that his days are numbered in this position as president,” Malema told thousands of EFF members during the party’s ninth anniversary celebrations on July 30.

Malema and his EFF were instrumental in the impeachment of former President Zuma by disrupting his speeches in Parliament and continuing to call for him to resign.

Ramaphosa has also faced dissension within the ANC over the Phala Phala farm scandal, with ANC supporters joining protests and senior party officials indirectly criticizing him or urging him to step down .

In July, Mavuso Msimang, a senior ANC politician, told a radio show that Ramaphosa “should temporarily step down as head of state until his name is cleared.”

At a rally in the Eastern Cape on September 18, Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu criticized politicians who are “hoarding money under their mattresses while the nation starves.”

Meanwhile, at a memorial service for ANC party stalwart Jessie Duarte in July, Mbeki told mourners the country could face an “Arab Spring”-style uprising if the The ANC was not putting its house in order and developing concrete plans to deal with the country’s problems. many problems – notably the youth unemployment rate 66.5 percent.

“You can’t have so many unemployed, so many people living in poverty, facing anarchy and corrupt leaders and not expect that the situation won’t explode one day,” Mbeki said.

Ramaphosa did not immediately respond to Mbeki’s criticism, but speaking to ANC members at the KwaZulu-Natal conference in July, he said the challenges facing South Africa are long-term date.

“(Unemployment) didn’t start two years ago,” he said. “We have been living with this problem for several years and we have worked with social partners to find or create the measures we need to take to address all these challenges.”

Ramaphosa’s allies have said cleaning up Africa’s oldest liberation movement of corruption was unpopular with many in the party, sparking infighting and calls for Ramaphosa’s impeachment.

“There is no one else to govern”

Oscar van Heerden, an author and political commentator who was a member of the ANC in the 1980s, said Ramaphosa’s opponents may make life difficult for him but are unlikely to win a vote of impeachment. as he is still supported by the ANC base, who are also worried about the results of the 2024 elections and see Ramaphosa as a safer bet.

Zuma and Mbeki were only removed from office after being removed as leaders of the ANC.

“If Ramaphosa wins the ANC presidential race, which I believe he will, the ANC will be better placed to win the 2024 elections,” van Heerden said.

Benedict Xolani Dube, director of the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, told Al Jazeera that – although he believes the country needs new leadership – Ramaphosa will survive as president because divisions within the ANC could threaten his electoral chances and because ANC politicians who oppose him Ramaphosa still needs his support to be nominated in the next election.

“This is the difficult situation for the ANC and the country: without him, there is no one else to govern,” Dube said.

“(But) we must no longer consider the ANC as the messiah who will change things. We need leadership in the country.

Political analyst Levy Ndou told Al Jazeera that if the National Prosecuting Authority brought charges against Ramaphosa, it could change the situation.

“If there is no evidence,” he said, “there is nothing to rely on and the ANC will continue to support Ramaphosa because at the moment there is no one to ‘other to replace it. »

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