The South African parliament ruled against initiating impeachment proceedings against Cyril Ramaphosa in response to a report that claimed he kept unreported foreign currency in a sofa at his farm in 2020.
The parliamentarians voted 214 to 148 against a motion to impeach. The president was strongly supported by the majority-holding African National Congress party, which prevented the resolution from obtaining the two-thirds majority required to move through with impeachment.
Ramaphosa is under fire for a controversy involving a significant financial heist from his Phala Phala game farm in early 2020. The parliamentary investigation claims that the president illegally concealed at least $580,000 in cash at his game ranch in a sofa.
The report claims that the money was stolen and that he did not report it to the police in order to dodge inquiries about how he acquired the foreign currency and why he did not reveal it to authorities. The advisory commission investigating it ruled he may have violated the constitution and breached his oath of office.
Ramaphosa has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the matter and came close to resigning last week. However, he was persuaded to continue fighting and review the panel’s report, which was an interim assessment and repeatedly relied on hearsay and other information that cannot be admitted into evidence in a court of law.
Before the debate and vote on the issue, some vocal Ramaphosa detractors from the ruling party made it clear that they would not vote along party lines and would support the adoption of a motion from a minority party to proceed with impeachment. These detractors were most closely associated with the former president Jacob Zuma, including his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
However, minority parties, including the Good Party and the Pan Africanist Congress, declared that they also would not support the impeachment motion, in part because Ramaphosa had sent it for review and in part because it was not wholly supported by solid evidence. After the pre-debate caucus meeting, where some opposing viewpoints were expressed, ANC MPs stated that the party’s MPs were expected to adhere to party policy.
Even with all opposition parties, including the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), voting for moving forward with the creation of an impeachment investigation committee, plus some dissenting ANC MPs, it seemed obvious that there would not be enough support for the motion to pass, despite some saying they would rather follow their conscience.
As the ANC’s elective conference of over 4,000 delegates gets underway on Friday this week, Ramaphosa appeared to be in line to win a second five-year term as both the leader of the ruling party and president of South Africa.
When the elective conference begins, Dlamini-supporters Zuma’s plan to propose her candidacy for party leader from the floor, but her delegate support prior to the conference suggested she had almost no chance of success—exactly the opposite of how things seemed five years ago when the ANC last chose its leadership.
Political analysts have argued that the Phala Phala controversy has soiled Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption credentials and re-election campaign. However, the ANC does not have a strong alternative candidate who can guarantee the party’s political survival. Since the election of former President Jacob Zuma in 2009, the ANC’s voting base has steadily declined.