The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is facing the most serious personal challenge of his four years in power after claims he tried to cover up the theft of millions of US dollars hidden at his game farm.
The scandal – labelled Farmgate by South African media – could potentially derail Ramaphosa’s efforts to win a second term in power and destabilise Africa’s most developed economy.
Ramaphosa has not been formally charged with any crime, but a police spokesperson confirmed authorities had started investigating the allegations made against the president.
The claims, made by a former head of South Africa’s intelligence agency, centre on a burglary in February 2020 at an expansive commercial game farm owned by Ramaphosa in the north-eastern province of Limpopo. At least $4m in cash was taken by burglars who broke in and found the money in cushions on sofas.
Arthur Fraser, who was appointed by Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma, told police in a criminal complaint lodged earlier this month that the suspects in the robbery had been tracked down, abducted by Ramaphosa’s presidential protection unit, interrogated, and then bribed to keep quiet about the existence of the cash.
Ramaphosa said he wanted a full investigation to take place before answering questions about theft. The allegations could lead to prosecution for tax evasion or a variety of criminal charges that would at the very least be extremely embarrassing for the president and undermine any efforts to tackle endemic graft in South 아프리카.
“The robbery that took place on my farm Phala Phala in 2020 is the subject of a criminal complaint, and the law must take its course. 다시 말해, due process must be followed,” Ramaphosa told lawmakers in parliament last week.
“We want the police to investigate whatever crime, whoever it is against, without any fear, without any favour and on an impartial basis,” Ramaphosa told a news conference later.
그만큼 69-year-old labour activist turned tycoon came to power in 2018 on an anti-corruption ticket but has been unable to push through reforms. He now faces a battle to retain the leadership of the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) later this year and then general elections in 2023.
The accusations have provided an opportunity for enemies within the ANC, long split by bitter factional battles, and outside the party. If Ramaphosa is found to have broken the law or the party’s ethics code, the ANC committee could ask him to step aside as the party’s leader or suspend him, which could be the first step to parliament removing him as president.
Supporters of the president have said the accusations are politically motivated and claim the former spy chief holds a grudge against Ramaphosa, who fired him for allowing South Africa’s intelligence services to serve the interest of Zuma, who was forced out in 2018 amid allegations of systematic corruption.
Ramaphosa has admitted the theft took place but has suggested a far smaller amount of money was taken, saying it was the proceeds of legitimate sales of animals raised on his farm.
John Steenhuisen, the leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, 말했다 Ramaphosa “needs to stop hiding behind the false cover of a ‘pending investigation’ and explain to the nation why he failed to report this massive theft and why he used state resources to try to retrieve his dirty dollars”.
Ramaphosa’s election to the leadership of the ANC and subsequent victory in national elections four years ago raised hopes South Africa had reached a turning point after years of soaring unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and flagging economic growth. But entrenched opposition within the ruling party, the president’s own consensual approach and the Covid pandemic have all contributed to widespread disappointment in his term in office.