CYRIL Ramaphosa, the South African President, faces the biggest test of his career, one that could lead to a premature end of his presidency.
His love for farming and failure to distance himself from the operations of the businesses he owns could prove to be his biggest downfall.
An Independent Panel, appointed by Parliament, chaired by a former Chief Justice, found that Ramaphosa may have violated his oath of office, and the country’s constitution and committed serious misconduct.
The Parliamentary inquiry was chaired by ex-Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo. The panel handed its report to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula on Wednesday.
The inquiry was instituted after the former director-general of the State Security Agency, Arthur Fraser, laid charges of kidnapping and money laundering case against Ramaphosa, the head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Major-General Wally Rhoode, and Crime Intelligence members.
Fraser alleged that a burglary at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in February 2020 was concealed and that suspects had been kidnapped and tortured.
Ramaphosa has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
In a report handed to Mapisa-Nqakula, the Ngcobo panel said: “We conclude that this information discloses, prima facie, that the president may have committed a serious violation of sections 96(2)(a) (of the constitution) and a serious violation of section 34(1) of the Prevention and combating of Corrupt Activities Act, a serious misconduct in that the president violated section 96(2)(b) of the constitution by acting in a way that is inconsistent with his office, and a serious misconduct in that the president violated section 96(2)(b) by exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business.”
Section 96(2)(a) of the SA Constitution states that members of the cabinet may not undertake any other paid work.
Ramaphosa now faces an impeachment inquiry, in addition to a criminal investigation by the country’s elite detectives – The Hawks – as well as a probe by the Office of the Public Protector.
He also faces an inquiry from his political party, the ANC, which, according to reports, has called an emergency meeting of its national executive committee to consider the developments. At this meeting, Ramaphosa is expected to come under huge pressure to stand down as the party’s and the country’s president.
His defence may be that the Ngcobo Panel was not conclusive that he has violated the Constitution and laws of the country. He, however, will be under pressure to give way for David Mabuza to replace him as deputy president of the party and the country.
In his reaction to the developments, Ramaphosa, through his office said: “The Presidency has noted the report submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly by the independent panel established in terms of Section 89 of the Constitution.
“The Presidency appreciates that according to the rules of the National Assembly, the NA needs to consider the report and determine the most appropriate way forward.
“The s89 process has presented an unprecedented and extraordinary moment for South Africa’s constitutional democracy. 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.
President Ramaphosa reiterates the statement he made in his submission to the independent panel: “I have endeavoured, throughout my tenure as President, not only to abide by my oath but to set an example of respect for the Constitution, for its institutions, for due process and the law. 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.”
The Presidency said Ramaphosa was giving consideration to the report and an announcement would be made in due course.