Supporters have come to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s defence amid the divisive Phala Phala scandal. Allies are saying ‘hands off’ while opponents want nothing but his exit from office.
Taking a swipe at allies of former President Jacob Zuma, African National Congress’s (ANC) member and Ramaphosa ally Bishop Hangwi Maumela said the president was under fire for eradicating corruption.
Ironically, Ramaphosa was found by an independent Section 89 panel to have likely breached the Constitution and anti-corruption laws. The panel suggested there was prima facie evidence that he had a case to answer on the Phala Phala matter.
“We cannot allow the corrupt individual sitting down somewhere in the corner and plan on how they must also bring some dirty things to President Cyril. The president has really begun to root out corruption; there’s been a number of arrests starting by former president [Zuma], different ministers, people who we thought are untouchable,” said Maumela.
He pointed towards actions taken by Ramaphosa to strengthen the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks as evidence of positive strides against corruption. He said such efforts were bound to agitate pro-Zuma factions within the party.
The Phala Phala report caused a scramble within the ruling party’s national executive committee just weeks ahead of its 55th elective conference. The president was reportedly ready to resign as head of state and withdraw from the party’s leadership race but was discouraged at the eleventh hour.
Supporters, who gathered outside Nasrec while the NEC met on Monday, claimed the Phala Phala scandal was a calculated attempt to remove Ramaphosa from office. Maumela echoed this sentiment, accusing Zuma of setting up the break-in.
“The Phala Phala matter must be rejected in the highest form. The very same guy who is alleged to be the house breaker was in the house of the former president three to four days before the break-in,” he said, without providing evidence.
Maumela went on to state former spy boss Arthur Fraser had been in contact with the individual concerned with the 2020 theft.
“Now this guy seems to have been in contact with Arthur Fraser just before he goes into that break-in. We are of the view that these things were set up. They were very much aware of what they were doing,” he said.
He added it was “unfair” that Ramaphosa was subjected to scrutiny since he was a victim of crime.
“What we feel is not fair,” he explained, “is that the president is a victim of crime and obviously the president might have tried to back himself up.”
The panel found that Ramaphosa could be answerable for an alleged cover-up of the burglary. He allegedly cooperated with Namibian president Ian Khama to recover millions-worth of stolen US dollars and silence the perpetrators. The cash stashed in his sofa was beyond the legal threshold for foreign cash.
Opposition parties push for removal
While supporters of the embattled president continue to rally around him, opponents say they will not back down in attempts to have him removed.
MPs at the National Assembly are set to debate the Phala Phala matter next week Tuesday. The debate, initially set for December 6th, could lead to an impeachment inquiry should enough lawmakers vote to adopt the panel report.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is confident that opposition parties will vote to hold President Ramaphosa accountable for the Phala Phala scandal. At least 31 ANC members need to vote with the opposition to secure a positive outcome.
EFF leader Julius Malema also vowed to pursue other avenues, including filing a vote of no confidence against Ramaphosa. However, Maumela is confident that “president Ramaphosa is not going anywhere”.