S.African panel files report into Ramaphosa's cover-up scandal

South Africa S.African panel files report into Ramaphosa's cover-up scandal
NOV 30, 2022 LISTEN

A special panel investigating whether South African President Cyril Ramaphosa should face impeachment for allegedly covering up a crime submitted its findings to parliament Wednesday, two weeks before he faces a crucial party election.

The three-person team, led by an ex-chief justice, handed its report to National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at a televised ceremony in Cape Town.

"The handover of the report... marks one of the indicative milestones in South Africa's maturing constitutional democracy," Mapisa-Nqakula said upon receiving the two-volume report.

The panel was set up in September to probe the 2020 alleged cover-up of a theft at Ramaphosa's farmhouse -- a scandal that has tarnished the president's reputation and overshadowed his bid for re-election at the helm of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

It was tasked with ascertaining whether there was sufficient evidence to show that the president committed a serious violation of the constitution or the law or a serious misconduct, Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing.

The head of the panel, retired chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, explained the scope of its investigation was limited to the information submitted by lawmakers.

"That's how the process unfolded. It was done I hope without fear and prejudice," he said.

Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula said the report will be published within 24 hours.

Lawmakers will then examine the findings in a one-day sitting on December 6, where it will adopt a resolution, "through a simple majority vote, whether a further action by the House is necessary or not," said the speaker.

ANC leadership election

The outcome could lead to a potential vote to remove the president, which to be successful would require a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, where the ANC holds most seats.

Earlier this month, presidential spokesman Vincent Magwenya told journalists that Ramaphosa would "gladly step aside" if he were to be criminally charged.

The report's filing comes only two weeks before the ANC, which has been in power since the end of apartheid, and is now deeply factionalised, convenes to elect new leadership.

Ramaphosa, 70, is facing a challenge from Zweli Mkhize, 66, an ex-health minister who resigned from government last year amid graft allegations.

Whoever wins is likely to be the head of state after the 2024 national elections, if the ANC - whose support has been declining in recent years -- wins that vote.

The scandal erupted in June after South Africa's former national spy boss filed a complaint with the police, alleging that in 2020 Ramaphosa had concealed a multi-million-dollar cash theft at his farm in the northeast of the country.

The complaint alleged that Ramaphosa hid the robbery from the authorities and instead organised for the robbers to be kidnapped and bribed into silence.

Ramaphosa came to power in 2018 on a promise of tackling graft.

He succeeded Jacob Zuma, who was forced to resign by the ANC on the back of a string of corruption scandals.