Will the stolen “buffalo deal” money bring down the South African president? | Policy

4 years after his predecessor Jacob Zuma was ousted and then jailed following a series of scandals, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a similar possible fate as a rift within the ruling National Congress party pressures him to be removed from office over suspected involvement in the case financial corruption that threatens to end his political life in case he is arrested.formally convicted.

The scandal surrounding Ramaphosa (70) – which threatens his political future – is called “Phala Phala”, a nature reserve located in the Limpopo province on the border of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, where the president owns a large farm.

From this farm, which includes animal species, including buffalo, a scandal broke out when in 2020 thieves stole hundreds of thousands of dollars, and possibly millions hidden under sofa cushions, and estimates differ on the size of the stolen money, if some sources estimated at 4 or 5 million dollars.

And last Wednesday, a committee of inquiry set up by parliament and chaired by former justice minister Sundayel Nkobo presented “compelling evidence” to incriminate the president who should have released the money but didn’t.

The report said Ramaphosa may have broken the law over money hidden in a “little-used room” at his ranch, but the pro-presidential NCP MP said the report did not say he would be held accountable, but suggested that it might be necessary to do so.

However, the report called into question the fate of the president, and the possibility of his impeachment resonated strongly in the ruling party’s corridors, although he may have received enough support from party leaders to avoid impeachment.

And the presidential spokesman announced on Saturday that Ramaphosa does not intend to resign and will run for a second term in 2024, and said that he will fight politically and judicially to refute these accusations.

The head of the investigative committee submits a report on the Vala Vala scandal to the speaker of the parliament (Reuters)

The Buffalo deal

The scandal came to light last June when a former intelligence official – described as close to Ramaphosa’s opponents in the National Congress Party – filed a complaint over money stolen from Ramaphosa’s farm, accusing the president of failing to report the incident to the police or tax authorities.

Ramaphosa, in response to suspicions that have arisen about him, said that the amount stolen from his farm was only $580,000, not millions of dollars, pointing out that it was the price of a buffalo that a Sudanese businessman bought from him and paid for for that in cash.

According to the boss’s testimony, one employee saw fit to hide the money under a couch cushion instead of putting it in a safe that many employees could access.

But a report submitted to parliament said the president should explain the source of foreign currency seized by thieves from his farm in Walla Valla.

Websites quoted Ramaphosa as saying he had never broken his oath, denying all allegations against him in the case.

South Africa's ANC party is holding a conference on national politics
Ramaphosa speaking during a meeting of the National Congress Party last July in Johannesburg (Reuters)

Politics and business

President Ramaphosa is not only a statesman, almost two decades before the election for the president of the country, in 1997 to be exact, he resigned from the National Congress and devoted himself to business, and during the break from political work he turned into a businessman with great success. wealth.

According to Forbes magazine, Ramaphosa’s wealth was estimated in 2015 at around $450 million, making him one of the 50 richest people in Africa.

The magazine states that the current president built his wealth through commercial activities, as he founded the investment company “Chanduka” in 2001.

However, after being appointed as Zuma’s vice president in 2014, he gave up managing his commercial activities to avoid a conflict of interest, and sold his 30% stake in Chandoka, which later merged with “my brother’s” company, forming a group whose assets are estimated at around 900 million dollars.

On Friday, the Executive Committee was convened to discuss the repercussions of the accusations against the (European) President.

The spirit of isolation

Even before parliament elected him president in February 2018 after winning an internal vote with a simple majority of the late leader Nelson Mandela’s party members, Ramaphosa campaigned with the slogan of fighting corruption and made a series of promises, but they evaporated over time. or little was achieved. , according to his critics.

Today, he is under pressure, not only from his own party, which is suffering from divisions, rampant corruption and a steady decline in popularity, but he is also facing some pressure from public opinion for reasons including the economic crisis, especially due to the effects of the Corona pandemic.

And before the presidential spokesman announced on Saturday that the president did not intend to resign, South African news site IOL reported that Ramaphosa may have announced his resignation, as he was due to give a speech last Thursday but did not.

A local newspaper, The Sowetan, also indicated that Ramaphosa had consulted with his allies to announce his resignation and said his failure to attend a meeting of the ruling party’s executive committee on Friday had angered members.

A number of NCP branch chiefs, including the head of the KwaZulu-Natal branch, have called on the president to resign to avoid court and parliamentary trials.

On the other hand, Ramaphosa, apart from the head of the Anglican Church, Thabo Makgoba, received the support of influential leaders of the ruling party and businessmen.

With less than two weeks to go before the Congress party congress, the possibility of Ramaphosa’s removal remains on the internal scales, with the party holding a two-thirds majority in Parliament, which will discuss the Vala Vala scandal report on Tuesday.

It is interesting that the same party before that, after long disputes, forced the former president (Zuma) to resign after he was accused of corruption, and later he was brought to justice and spent some time in prison.

Recently, Ramaphosa appeared to be the most prominent candidate for a second presidential term in 2024 if the party wins the upcoming elections, but the doubts surrounding him could distance him from the competition even if he does not escape responsibility in this case.

The British newspaper The Guardian announced that if Ramaphosa loses the leadership of the ruling party, it would be difficult for him to continue as president, but he ruled out that half of the ruling party’s representatives in parliament would vote for his removal.

Meanwhile, South Africans fear that if the isolation option prevails, it could lead to a repeat of the unrest that took place last summer following the arrest of the former president, which saw deaths and injuries and was described as the worst wave of violence South Africa has seen in years.

Source : Island + foreign press + Web pages

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