by MTHULISI SIBANDA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – WHENEVER the ruling African National Congress (ANC) takes its president to task over the individual’s controversies, it heralds the end of their reign as the president of the country.
It has happened twice in the past ten of the 28 years into democracy.
The beleaguered Cyril Ramaphosa is the next to be hauled over the coals.
The current president of party and country finds himself in this untenable predicament after lurching into a multimillion-Rand storm.
It has emerged about US$4 million in cash (about R62 million) was stolen from his Phala Phala game farm in the Limpopo province in February 2020. Proceeds were reportedly from his game business.
The issue of the cold cash reportedly kept under mattresses was allegedly swept under the carpet.
It only came to light last week after former State Security Agency head, Arthur Fraser, opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa.
The ex- spy boss laid charges of “money laundering, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping” at a police station in Rosebank, northern Johannesburg.
Damning allegations suggest the suspects in the theft of the money were kidnapped and tortured, and, in yet another twist, the culprits were bribed for their silence.
The amount of money in question raises fears of an illicit flow of funds and potential money laundering.
Neighbouring Namibia has been sucked into the scandal amid reports Ramaphosa sought the assistance of fellow president, Hage Geingob, in arresting of the suspects in Namibia.
Ramaphosa is reportedly set to appear before the ANC’s integrity commission over the scandal now known as “Farmgate” and Dollargate”.
His rivals within the factionalised former liberation movement that has been in power since the end of apartheid in 1994 are agitating for his appearance.
There have been some calls for him to step aside until investigations are concluded.
This has brought to the fore the party’s divisive “step aside” rule that decrees that members facing charges must relinquish their position until they are cleared.
Ramaphosa’s current woes and subsequent calls to step aside paint a picture of the top job in the country being poisoned chalice.
Of the three presidents that have served before him, only the revered Nelson Mandela was able to see out his term (he served one).
Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, agonizingly saw his second term prematurely end in 2008 when his party pressured him to resign as president after courts cited political interference in the legal woes of Jacob Zuma, later his successor.
Zuma’s presidency from 2009 was riddled with a myriad of controversies, including the infamous state capture. The controversies fuelled his uneasy late-night resignation in 2018, again under pressure from ANC.
While the presumption of innocence legal principle takes precedence, there is no denying that Ramaphosa faces an integrity crisis and his status as an anti-graft champion is tattered.
His travails could not have come at a worse time after disgraced commodities firm, Glencore, owned up to paying more than $100 million in bribes to government officials in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and Venezuela.
While South Africa is not mentioned among those countries, some executives at the local beleaguered power utility, Eskom, have accused Glencore of using its ties with Ramaphosa on some controversial deals in South Africa.
He was reportedly Glencore’s local empowerment partner at the height of the said deals, before his election as ANC deputy (to Zuma) in 2012.
The South Gauteng High Court is also hearing a multimillion-dollar against Ramaphosa, lodged by the families and survivors of the Marikana shooting in 2012.
Back then, police opened fire on striking Lonmin Platinum miners, resulting in 44 deaths and over 70 injuries.
Victims want the president held liable as he was a non-executive director.
They appeal for over $60 million in compensation.
Ramaphosa’s campaign for the ANC presidency, the so-called CR17 campaign, was also mired in controversy including money laundering accusations against its funders.
“The president is facing a crisis of credibility,” John Steenhuisen, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), stated.
“(Ramaphosa) cannot hide behind procedural smokescreens to avoid presenting South Africans with the full truth around the money that was stolen from his farm, and the subsequent cover-up,” Steenhuisen said.
Bantu Holomisa, formerly of the ANC but now leading the United Democratic Movement (UDM), urged Ramaphosa to go on a “short sabbatical.”
The revelations of the incidents at the farm are linked to the factionalism in ANC, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, founded in 1912.
This bickering is projected to spike ahead of the elective congress of the party scheduled for later this year.
Fraser came to prominence last year when he approved the release of Zuma on medical parole after he was jailed for contempt of court for 15 months after refusing to return to a commission probing into state capture.
Fraser’s contract was not renewed when it lapsed at the end of 2021.
“What is most evident in this latest factional saga, is that ANC infighting, intra-party battles, and factionalism continue to dangerously destabilise the South African state,” Steenhuisen said.
Carl Niehaus, suspended former ANC spokesperson, stated, “Are all the scandals piling up against this man (Ramaphosa) who was purported to be a ‘fighter against corruption’ never going (to) end?”
Speaking at the party’s elective conference for Limpopo, Ramaphosa’s reaction was incomprehensive.
“I have never stolen money from anyone. My integrity as a leader will never allow me to do so,” he told delegates.
Vincent Magwenya, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, assured the president would comply with investigations and in the meantime “remains firmly focused on the task of rebuilding the economy and the country.”
“The president reaffirms that he was not involved in any criminal conduct, and once again pledges his full cooperation with any police investigation,” Magwenya stated.
– CAJ News