South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been under mounting pressure since there was evidence found that he may have committed serious misconduct in relation to a large amount of cash found at his game farm after a robbery.
Before the findings came out on Wednesday, he was the clear favourite to lead the African National Congress (ANC) into elections in 2024 and secure a second presidential term.
But with less than a month to go before the party chooses its next candidate, he is battling for political survival.
Ramaphosa has been under fire since June, when a former spy boss filed a complaint with police alleging that the president had hidden a February 2020 burglary at his farm in northeastern South Africa from the authorities.
In a sworn statement, Fraser said thieves had raided Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in February 2020, found at least $4 million in foreign cash hidden in furniture, and made off with the money.
Police opened a criminal investigation into the case after Fraser’s statement, which raised questions about how Ramaphosa had acquired so much cash and whether he declared it.
Ramaphosa, acknowledged there had been a break-in and said that cash proceeds from the sale of game had been stolen. He denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any criminal offence. He said the amount was much smaller than what had been alleged.
Ramaphosa said the vast sum of cash stashed at the farm was payment for buffaloes bought by a Sudanese businessman.
But the incriminating report questioned why the identity of Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, said to have bought the cattle, could not be verified, and why the buffaloes remained on Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala estate, a two-hour drive from Pretoria.
“There are serious doubts as to whether the stolen foreign currency actually came from their sale,” the report concluded.
The scandal has cast a shadow over Ramaphosa’s bid to portray himself as graft-free after the corruption-stained era of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
The report concluded Ramaphosa “may have committed” serious violations and misconduct. He allegedly arranged for the robbers to be kidnapped and bribed into silence.
It will be examined by parliament on Tuesday. The president has not been charged with anything at this point, and the police inquiry is ongoing.
That debate could open the way to a vote on impeaching Ramaphosa, which in South Africa means removal from office.
The affair has been a huge embarrassment for The President who has repeatedly spoken about taking a tough line on graft.
He faced down a rival faction from his own party in July who were trying to scrap a rule that anyone charged with corruption or other crimes must step down while they are being investigated.
He also promised in October to tackle graft with tougher procurement rules and better oversight of state-owned firms, after an inquiry highlighted high-level graft under Zuma.
The South African press remained confident on Saturday that Ramaphosa would remain in office. The president is popular with the public, more so than the ANC.
On December 16, Ramaphosa contests elections for the ANC presidency, a position that holds the key to staying on as national president.
He took the helm of Africa’s most industrialized economy in 2018, vowing to root out corruption from state institutions.
Even the head of the South African Anglican Church warned that, if Ramaphosa resigns, the country would be in danger of falling “into anarchy.”
But the party of national hero Nelson Mandela, in power for 28 years since the end of the apartheid-era, is experiencing dwindling support.