Thursday , February 22 2024

‘South African President won’t quit despite scandal’ 


JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa will not resign despite a scandal over money stolen from his farm, his spokesman says.

The row centres on claims he kept large sums of cash on his property then covered up its theft.

A panel of legal experts concluded that he has a case to answer but Ramaphosa’s spokesman suggested he would fight on, and rather than quit would seek a second term as leader of his African National Congress party.

“President Ramaphosa is not resigning based on a flawed report, neither is he stepping aside,” Vincent Magwenya said.

“It may be in the long-term interest and sustainability of our constitutional democracy, well beyond the Ramaphosa presidency, that such a clearly flawed report is challenged,” he added.

The scandal erupted in June, when a former South African spy boss, Arthur Fraser, filed a complaint with police accusing the president of hiding a theft of $4m (£3.25m) in cash from his Phala Phala game farm in 2020.

Ramaphosa admitted that money had been stolen, but said it was $580,000, not $4m.

The president said the $580,000 had come from the sale of buffalo, but the panel, headed by a former chief justice, said it had “substantial doubt” about whether a sale took place.

The panel’s findings have been handed to parliament, which is set to examine them and decide whether or not to launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

Ramaphosa is also under pressure from the opposition, as well as rivals from his governing ANC, to resign.

He is due to meet the ANC’s top leadership bodies on Sunday and Monday after failing to turn up at an earlier meeting.

The scandal is especially damaging for Ramaphosa because he came to power vowing to clear up the corruption which had dogged the country under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

The ANC remains deeply divided between supporters of Zuma and those who back Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa will be challenged for the ANC’s leadership by his former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who has also been accused of corruption. He denies the allegations.

Seventy-year-old Cyril Ramaphosa became president of South Africa in 2018 having been active in the fight against white-minority rule – apartheid – since the 1970s and was close to liberation hero Nelson Mandela.

Ramaphosa rose to the top job by pledging to clamp down on corruption – but now faces questions himself over a large sum of cash found on his property.

The scandal centres on claims the president tried to hide the theft of half a million dollars possibly more which was stashed down the back of a sofa in his farmhouse. That’s led to questions about where the cash came from.

The president denies claims that as much as $4m (£3.3m) was taken. He says the amount stolen was $580,000 and that he got it for selling buffalos.

An independent panel looked into the allegations for South Africa’s parliament and concluded the president may have broken the law and abused his position. But that’s only the start of a process. (Int’l News Desk)

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