South Africans are anxiously awaiting the outcome of a series of emergency meetings that the leadership of the ruling party has scheduled to debate the “Farmgate scandal” engulfing its leader, Cyril Ramaphosa.
The African National Congress (ANC) party’s top decision-making body, the 80-member national executive committee (NEC), was due to discuss the recently released Phala Phala report on Friday, but the gathering was abandoned after less than an hour.
According to ANC acting secretary-general Paul Mashatile, the meeting in Johannesburg was postponed so the damning report could first be processed by the party’s national working committee which runs its day-to-day operations.
Released on Wednesday by an independent panel appointed by parliament, the report was the outcome of its investigation into how South Africa’s president dealt with a burglary at his Phala Phala farm in 2020.
The Farmgate scandal erupted last June when Mr Ramaphosa was accused by former director-general of the state security agency, Arthur Fraser, of trying to cover up the theft of $4 million (€3.8 million) from his Phala Phala farm.
Although Mr Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing, the panel found he may have violated the constitution and broken anti-corruption laws “by exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business”.
The findings have thrown the ruling party into turmoil ahead of its five-yearly national elective conference, which is scheduled to start on December 16th.
Prior to the report’s release, Mr Ramaphosa had been widely tipped to secure a second term as the movement’s president. He recently received more than double the nominations of his closest rival for the post from ANC branches.
However, it was widely reported in South Africa on Thursday that Mr Ramaphosa’s initial reaction to the report was that he should resign as president because it was in the best interests of the country. After seeking further input from his allies, Mr Ramaphosa was then convinced to await the outcome of the NEC meeting to see if he still had sufficient backing among its members to launch a political and legal fight-back.
The South African president’s allies in the party are expected to vigorously defend Mr Ramaphosa at the NEC meeting.
On Friday ANC national chairman Gwede Mantashe criticised the Phala Phala report, saying it was badly written, and its allegations against Mr Ramaphosa lacked the necessary assertiveness, given their gravity.
South Africa’s minister for finance minister Enoch Godongwana also told reporters he believed there was only a 10 per cent chance of the president resigning after the NEC meeting.
Mr Mashatile said the NEC would meet before December 6th, the day parliament will debate the adoption of the report’s findings and whether it should launch impeachment proceedings against the president.