By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK | JOHANNESBURG (IDN) — A convoluted tale of monies hidden in a sofa in the home of the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa threatens to unseat a popular leader while it creates more headaches for the African National Congress.
According to the charges, a fortune in U.S. dollars was stolen from President Ramaphosa’s farm but he never reported the theft to the police or disclosed it publicly, but apparently started an off-the-books investigation and paid the suspects to keep quiet.
The stash was allegedly generated by the sale of some of the President’s buffalo to a Sudanese visitor to the President’s farm on Christmas Day, 2019.
Money laundering allegations against Mr Ramaphosa were first made by South Africa’s ex-spy boss, Arthur Fraser, an ally of Ramaphosa’s predecessor and political rival Jacob Zuma.
After Zuma was jailed in 2021, it was Fraser, appointed head of the prison service, who controversially granted him release on medical parole.
Ramaphosa told investigators that $580,000 in cash was stolen from his Phala Phala ranch in north-eastern South Africa in February 2020 while he was attending an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
The cash was hidden beneath sofa cushions in a place believed to be the safest, he said.
But the ex-spy boss, Fraser, wondered how Ramaphosa had acquired so much cash and whether he declared it. The media dubbed it the “farmgate” scandal.
More than two years after paying for the buffaloes, the buyer had yet to take possession of the animals, the inquiry noted.
The evidence warranted further scrutiny by parliament, the panel said. Ramaphosa “may have committed” serious violations and misconduct in not reporting the theft directly to police, they said, and in seeking the help of his Namibian counterpart to apprehend the thieves.
The president reported the robbery to the head of his presidential protection unit, General Walther Rhoode, who failed to adequately pass the information to police, the investigators said.
The allegations against Ramaphosa strike at the heart of the image that he has sought to a project as a clean-hands president after Zuma’s corruption-drenched era.
Meanwhile, some of the President’s allies offered an estimate of the cost to the ANC of a resignation or removal. Songezo Zibi, head of Rivonia Circle, a civic think tank, said those pushing for Ramaphosa’s exit in the ANC could live to regret it.
“He was the ANC’s electoral trump card, because his own popularity far exceeds that of the ANC,” he said. “The ANC may be authors of their own electoral obituary in 2023.”
“He has artificially extended the life of the ANC in power,” added William Gumede, chair of Democracy Works, a civic foundation. “Without him, we’ll be talking about the ANC going below 40 per cent of the vote.”
“If he goes, there’s going to be an interim period (between now and the 2024 election) of the old state captures grabbing what they can… but the good people will also fight back.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 06 December 2022]
Photo: President Joe Biden and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa shake hands in the Oval Office on September 16, 2022. Source: The White House.
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