Spot Report: South Africa’s presidential scandal has implications beyond Ramaphosa’s current term by Emily Levinson

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is fighting a political inquiry that could lead to his impeachment after a panel of experts released a preliminary report indicating that he may have committed misconduct and violated South Africa’s constitution.

Ramaphosa allegedly covered up the theft of between 500 thousand and 4 million USD from his game farm, where the cash was reportedly hidden in a couch, in 2020. He has been accused of holding undeclared foreign currency, tax evasion, failing to inform police of the robbery, and misusing state resources, as he reportedly ordered a senior presidential bodyguard to find the robbers, who may have then been paid off.

On December 5, the African National Congress (ANC) executive committee told party members to reject the panel’s findings at an upcoming parliamentary vote. The vote, originally scheduled for December 6, was subsequently postponed until December 13. While Ramaphosa considered resigning after the panel’s findings were released, he has since reversed course, filing a lawsuit challenging the findings and pursuing re-election as leader of the ANC, which will hold its conference December 16-20. This reversal was reportedly tied to the impact his resignation would have on the ANC, which is facing dwindling support, high corruption, and internal divisions; even the accusations against Ramaphosa are reportedly rooted in infighting.

Ultimately, Ramaphosa is unlikely to face impeachment. However, the scandal and resulting infighting will further weaken the ANC and distract from efforts to make much-needed economic and infrastructure reforms. The scandal is also likely to damage Ramaphosa’s credibility and prospects for re-election in 2024. While the ANC is likely to remain the largest party, lower support may necessitate coalition-building, which could shift the country’s political future.