Ramaphosa denies cover-up, details how he earned $580K from buffalo sale

  • 1 Dec 2022

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been accused of illegally holding millions in cash at his game ranch in northern South Africa and covering up its theft in an attempt to hide the existence of the money.

Parliament is set to examine the report and decide whether to push ahead with Ramaphosa's impeachment proceedings next week. ( Reuters Archive )

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing renewed pressure after a panel probing a burglary scandal at his farm said it found enough evidence to warrant a parliamentary debate on whether he should be impeached.

The president immediately denied any wrongdoing. 

"I categorically deny that I have violated this oath in any way, and I similarly deny that I am guilty of any of the allegations made against me," Ramaphosa said in a statement issued by the South African presidency on Wednesday.

"The conclusions of the panel require careful reading and appropriate consideration in the interest of the stability of the government and that of the country." 

Parliament is set to examine the report and decide whether to push ahead with impeachment proceedings next week, only days before Ramaphosa faces a crucial internal party election.

The three-person panel set up in September to probe the alleged cover-up of theft at Ramaphosa's farmhouse wrote in its conclusions that the information it gathered "discloses ... that the president may have committed" serious violations and misconduct.

These include not reporting the theft directly to police, acting in a way inconsistent with holding office and exposing himself to a clash between his official responsibilities and his private business.

Cash stolen from beneath sofa

The affair, which tarnished the president's reputation and overshadowed his bid for re-election as ruling party leader, erupted in June after South Africa's former national spy boss filed a complaint with the police.

It alleged that Ramaphosa had hidden a burglary at his farm at Phala Phala in northeastern South Africa from the authorities.

Instead, he allegedly organised the robbers to be kidnapped and bribed into silence.

The president has denied this and laid out his position at length in the 138-page submission that was leaked on Wednesday.

"I did not 'hunt' for the perpetrators of the theft, as alleged, nor did I give any instructions for this to take place," he wrote.

Ramaphosa said $580,000 in cash was stolen from beneath sofa cushions at his ranch.

The sum was a payment made by a Sudanese citizen who had bought buffaloes.

Staff at the farm initially locked the money in an office safe, Ramaphosa said.

But the lodge manager then decided that the "safest place" to store it would be under the cushions of a sofa inside Ramaphosa's residence at the farm, he said.

Ramaphosa told the inquiry that the accusations against him were "without any merit" and asked it not to take the matter "any further".

But his request was rebuffed.

"This is a defining moment for our constitutional democracy and must not be taken lightly," Siviwe Gwarube, the chief whip of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, said in a statement.

"The panel makes some serious findings against the president ... These are grounds for impeachment proceedings."

The chances of impeachment are slim given the ANC's dominance of parliament, where it holds 230 seats, or nearly 60 percent of the total, and typically votes along party lines.

Impeaching a president requires a two-third majority in the national assembly.

READ MORE: S Africa's Ramaphosa admits ANC 'mistakes' before corruption panel

Re-election bid

Ramaphosa came to power in 2018 on a promise to root out graft after the corruption-stained era of his former boss, Jacob Zuma.

He faces elections on December 16 in his bid for a second term as president of the deeply factionalised African National Congress party.

The panel said Ramaphosa should face further scrutiny on his ability to stay in office.

"In all the circumstances, we think that the evidence presented to the Panel, prima facie, establishes that the president may be guilty of a serious violation of certain sections of the constitution," the report found.

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

READ MORE: South Africa inquiry points to systemic corruption during Zuma era