South African parliament votes against impeachment of President Cyril Ramaphosa

On December 13, a special session of Parliament was held in Cape Town, South Africa.Nardus Engelbrecht/AP

South Africa’s parliament voted against launching impeachment proceedings against President Cyril Ramaphosa over a report that he held undeclared foreign currency on his farm in 2020.

Lawmakers voted 214 to 148 against impeaching Ramaphosa. The ruling African National Congress party, which has a majority in parliament, has largely backed Ramaphosa, blocking the motion from gaining the two-thirds vote needed to proceed with impeachment.

However, four ANC MPs signaled their opposition to Ramaphosa by voting for impeachment, with several others not present for the vote.

The crucial vote came after a damning parliamentary report accused Ramaphosa of illegally stashing at least $580,000 in cash on a couch at his Phala Phala game ranch. It said he had not reported the money theft to the police to avoid questions about how he obtained the foreign currency and why he had not declared it to the authorities.

The report prompted Ramaphosa’s opponents — opposition parties and even rivals within the ANC — to call for him to step down.

At least four ANC lawmakers broke party lines to join the opposition in voting for the impeachment process, including current Ramaphosa cabinet minister and senior ANC leader Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma .

Dlamini-Zouma lost the ANC presidency to Ramaphosa in the last national conference in 2017.

Other prominent figures who voted for Ramaphosa’s impeachment included Supra Mahumapelo and Mosebenzi Zwane, Ramaphosa’s prominent rival and ally of former President Jacob Zuma, in an indication of the extent of division within the ANC.

in the seat on Tuesday. ANC lawmakers have argued that the panel that drafted the report did not provide enough evidence to support impeachment of Ramaphosa. Other law enforcement agencies are still investigating the matter, they said.

They also cited Ramaphosa’s application for judicial review of the report, saying parliament should wait for the outcome of that process before taking any action against the president.

The parliamentary vote comes in a week where Ramaphosa will also be fighting for his political life as he seeks to be re-elected the leader of the ANC at its national conference starting in Johannesburg on Friday.

The meeting will also elect members of the party’s top decision-making body, the National Executive Committee.

The ANC leader must be re-elected for a second term as South African president in 2024.

Ramaphosa is expected to be re-elected as the ANC leader but he will be weakened by the scandal, say analysts.

“The Phala Phala scandal has tarnished Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption credentials and re-election campaign,” said Aleix Montana, Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. “But there is no viable alternative candidate in the ANC that could ensure the party’s political survival. The ANC’s voting share has consistently decreased since the election of former President Jacob Zuma in 2009.”

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