South Africa’s ruling party has closed ranks behind its embattled president, Cyril Ramaphosa, ordering its MPs to vote against adopting a parliamentary report that found he may have violated the constitution and broken anti-corruption laws.
On Monday evening African National Congress treasurer-general Paul Mashatile said the party’s top decision-making body had agreed in a meeting to vote against adopting the Phala Phala report in parliament on Tuesday. He said this was because Mr Ramaphosa had approached the constitutional court earlier in the day asking it to review and set aside the document and its findings.
The report was released last Wednesday by an independent panel appointed by parliament. It was the outcome of an investigation into how South Africa’s president dealt with a 2020 burglary at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo province.
The scandal erupted last June when Mr Ramaphosa was accused of trying to cover up the theft of US$4 million (€3.8 million) from his Phala Phala farm by former director-general of the state security agency Arthur Fraser. In his submissions to the inquiry, Mr Ramaphosa said that an amount of $580,000, rather $4 million, was stolen from his farm and this had come from the sale of 20 buffaloes.
But the panel, which was headed by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, said it had serious doubts about whether a sale had really taken place given the animals in question were still on Mr Ramaphosa’s farm. Mr Ramaphosa, who came to power in 2017 pledging to tackle corruption in the ANC and government, has denied any wrongdoing.
Following the report’s release, he initially decided to step down from office but after consulting extensively with his allies the president agreed to launch a fightback against what his ANC supporters describe as the panel’s “flawed” findings.
Mr Mashatile told reporters that the ANC’s 80-member national executive committee meeting in Johannesburg had involved intense discussions, but that its decision means “the president continues as president” for now. “We are not supporting a process that will lead to the impeachment of the president [if parliament goes ahead with its vote],” he said.
The 400-member National Assembly is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on whether to adopt the report and launch a full investigation into the allegations as part of the impeachment process. The ANC has 230 MPs in the lower house. Opposition parties would need the support of 31 ruling party politicians to get to the 201 MPs required to get the impeachment process against Mr Ramaphosa going.
In the run-up to the vote opposition politicians have been heaping pressure on Mr Ramaphosa and the ruling party. The main opposition party, Democratic Alliance, called for the dissolution of the National Assembly on Monday while the Economic Freedom Fighters want a no-confidence motion tabled against Mr Ramaphosa. The scandal could not have come at a worse time for South Africa’s president, who was widely expected to secure a second term as the ANC’s leader at its elective conference later this month.