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Couch stuffed with cash endangers South African president

largelast month Cyril Ramaphosa was on a state visit to the UK and he was all smiles under a chandelier at Buckingham Palace. The South African president is in a good mood. He is sought after abroad. Domestically, he is clearly the favorite to retain the presidency of the ruling African National Congress (African National Congress) at the party’s national congress, which begins on December 16 — and thus, likely to be the country’s leader for the next decade.

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Mr Ramaphosa’s political fate now hangs in the balance. On 30 November, an independent panel appointed by the Speaker of the South African Parliament stated that, Congressmans could initiate impeachment proceedings against the president (pictured). Its report, written by a retired chief justice, found “prima facie evidence” that the president violated the law and the Constitution in a bizarre saga involving dozens of buffaloes, a Sudanese businessman and the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars (source unknown ) thief) from the couch.

The verdict shocked South African political circles and was very serious for a man who had pledged to clean up South Africa following horrific corruption under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. If the findings lead to the president’s ouster, it would plunge the country into another political crisis.

Mr Ramaphosa’s troubles began six months ago. On June 1, ex-spy Arthur Fraser submitted evidence to police in which he claimed the president violated various anticorruption laws involving the concealment and subsequent theft of large us Dollars at Mr. Ramaphosa’s game farm in Limpopo province.be opposed to Congressmans seized on those claims and successfully asked the speaker to refer the matter to an independent panel — a possible prelude to impeachment.

Mr Ramaphosa has denied wrongdoing. His version of the story is that the cash taken from the couch (he said it was $580,000) came from the Christmas 2019 sale of 20 “substandard” buffaloes to a Sudanese businessman. The money went into the couch because it was considered safer than a safe on the farm, he said. After learning of the theft weeks later, he reported it to his protection team, a branch of the police. The president also argued that while he is the ultimate owner of the game farm, he is not involved in day-to-day operations and therefore does not violate constitutional provisions on conflicts of interest.

The independent panel acknowledged Mr Fraser’s allegations contained “hearsay”.However, after conducting its own preliminary investigation, it concluded that there was sufficient evidence Congressmans Further investigation of the case through the impeachment process. Its report indicated that Mr Ramaphosa appeared to combine the job of the president with that of a hunting farmer, violating a constitutional ban on “paid work” by cabinet ministers. The team found that Mr Ramaphosa should have reported the matter to the relevant police department, not just his security team. They argue that Mr Ramaphosa may also have abused his power to enlist the help of Namibia’s president to apprehend suspects fleeing South Africa. The panel concluded there were “substantial doubts” about the source and amount of the stolen funds.

In a statement following the report, Mr Ramaphosa reiterated his innocence. He said the findings represented “a remarkable and unprecedented moment in South Africa’s constitutional democracy”. It is true: no South African president has ever been impeached before.

What happens next will happen in two related areas. The first is the National Assembly. CongressmanThe two sides will discuss the panel’s findings on Dec. 6 and will decide whether to proceed with the hearing. Mr Ramaphosa is likely to launch a legal challenge to the panel, a so far untested constitutional mechanism.

The second arena is African National Congress itself. Under party rules championed by the president, officials are expected to “step down” if they face criminal charges. Mr Ramaphosa has not been charged (despite a separate police investigation) and so may claim that standard does not apply in the case. However, many in the party are likely to use the opportunity to renew efforts to oust him at this month’s meeting, possibly replacing him with someone less keen on reform or fighting corruption.

The South African rand fell against the dollar as markets weighed the possibility of instability in the coming months. If Mr Ramaphosa ends up leaving, it would be a grim end for the man who rose to power to bring a “new dawn” to South Africa. The president has promised to restore due process after the chaos of the Zuma-era kleptocracy and protect the constitution he helped create in the 1990s. It would be a sad irony if someone who vowed to restore the rule of law should be removed from office for violating it.

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