Ramaphosa survives impeachment inquiry vote, but frail as more hurdles await

A member of the African National Congress celebrates after President Cyril Ramaphosa survived an impeachment vote in Cape Town, South Africa, on Dec. 13.ESA Alexander/Reuters

South Africa’s ruling party has shot down a proposed inquiry that could lead to the impeachment of President Cyril Ramaphosa, but anger over the mysterious $580,000 cash payment left Mr Ramaphosa seriously injured and lost the party. control.

Parliament voted 214 to 148 to reject the impeachment inquiry in Tuesday’s highly anticipated debate, despite an earlier legal report finding prima facie evidence that Mr Ramaphosa may have violated anti-corruption laws. The report looked into his handling of large sums of American cash hidden on his gaming ranch couch – ostensibly a payment by a Sudanese businessman for a herd of buffaloes.

According to widely circulated reports at the time, Mr Ramaphosa wrote his resignation speech on November 30 after seeing the scathing conclusions of the legal panel’s report, but his party colleagues persuaded him to oppose the report in court and in parliament.

The ruling African National Congress, which has a parliamentary majority, ordered its MPs to vote against the proposed inquiry. Just five lawmakers broke the norm in support of the inquiry, one of whom later overturned her vote, saying it was a mistake.

However, several high-profile ANC members did not show up for the vote, signaling their dissatisfaction with the official line. Mr Ramaphosa will face an even tougher battle on Friday at the leaders’ meeting of the African National Congress, the first such meeting in five years, when his opponents will be better placed to seek his ouster.

Most analysts predict Mr Ramaphosa will survive the leadership challenge, largely because he is the ANC’s best hope for victory in the next national election in 2024. The ANC’s support has been steadily declining over the past decade, and the party is now in grave danger of losing its majority by 2024.

Opinion polls consistently show Mr Ramaphosa is more popular than his party, although his image is now badly damaged. Many ANC strategists want him to continue representing the party in the 2024 general election. But he may be a figurehead, unable to rein in factions within the ANC that resent his anti-corruption and patronage campaigns, the traditional prerogatives of many ANC officials.

The key test for the ANC meeting will be whether Mr Ramaphosa can retain control of his state executive, the powerful body that governs the party’s day-to-day decision-making. Early signs suggest the new executive could conspire with factional rivals of Mr Ramaphosa, weakening him politically and unable to pursue his agenda at a time when South Africa is mired in a growing power shortage crisis and economic collapse. Economic reform agenda infrastructure.

William Gumede, a professor at the School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, noted that most of the ANC members who received the most conference nominations from the party branch faced corruption charges or criminal convictions. “This is the death knell for party renewal,” Mr Gumede said in comments published this week.

If Mr. Ramaphosa is re-elected as the ANC’s leader, he will become the prisoner of a national executive filled with “corrupt, incompetent and violent leaders,” Mr. Gumede said. It’s normal, they’re not interested in changing anything.”

After the ANC’s victory in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday, Mr Ramaphosa is likely to become increasingly dependent on the mainstream of the party, which has been reluctant to expel members accused of corruption. The vote showed the ANC had little appetite for full disclosure of the allegations against Mr Ramaphosa and the US cash payments, which are supposed to be examined by the proposed impeachment inquiry.

Attorney General Ronald Ramora said during a parliamentary debate that the report last month by the panel of legal experts studying Ramaphosa’s allegations was based on “speculation” and “hearsay” information and that there was not enough evidence to establish that the impeachment inquiry was reasonable. He complained that the report was influenced by “those of us who mine dirty data in unprincipled and illegal ways”.

However, a majority of opposition MPs voted in favor of the report. John Steenhuisen, leader of the largest opposition Democratic Alliance party, said Mr Ramaphosa had fallen to the level of his predecessor Jacob Zuma, who mobilized the ANC caucus to help him fight corruption in parliament. The issue survived a series of no-confidence votes before eventually resigning in 2018.

“It’s the exact same modus operandi,” Mr Steenhuisen said during the debate. “As long as you have enough numbers in Parliament, you can make any scandal go away … have we learned from the past, or are we ready to destroy Parliament again in defense of a leader who doesn’t want to be held accountable ?”

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