South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has thrown its weight behind troubled president Cyril Ramaphosa, as he asked the country’s highest court to dismiss a damning report accusing him of abuse of power.
The backing from the ANC, a day ahead of a key parliamentary vote, secures Ramaphosa’s position as president. He had been under pressure to resign over a panel’s findings that he may have broken the law over a theft at his private game reserve.
In papers filed on Monday, Ramaphosa called on the constitutional court to dismiss the report. He also sought an order from the court to declare as “unlawful and invalid” any further steps taken by parliament over the report, one day before lawmakers are due to vote on whether to accept the findings and start full-scale impeachment proceedings.
The ANC said on Monday that it would instruct its MPs to vote against an impeachment investigation in parliament, after a meeting of its most senior members. The backing signals that Ramaphosa is for now secure as head of the party, which holds leadership elections next week.
“It means the president continues as president,” Paul Mashatile, the ANC treasurer general, said. Ramaphosa did not submit his resignation nor was he asked to resign, he added.
Ramaphosa has been widely tipped to win re-election as ANC leader in next week’s vote, which takes place five years after he defeated Jacob Zuma in a party power struggle and set about cleaning up government after South Africa’s worst post-apartheid corruption scandal.
But Ramaphosa’s grip on power was shaken last week when a panel led by a former chief justice concluded that he may have committed serious misconduct over the fallout from the 2020 theft of $580,000 in cash that was stuffed in a sofa at his Phala Phala farm.
Ramaphosa failed to properly report the incident to police and to fully account for the source of the cash, of which there may have been more than was stolen, the panel said.
Ramaphosa has denied wrongdoing over Phala Phala and has said that the cash legitimately came from the sale of buffalo to a Sudanese businessman.
His allies have said that the panel report has serious flaws, relying on weak evidence and an incorrect interpretation of the law.
The panel began its investigation after Arthur Fraser, a former chief of South Africa’s state security agency and an ally of Zuma, earlier this year revealed the theft and accused the president of a cover-up.
South Africa’s central bank and public protector, a government ombudsman, are also investigating the source of the Phala Phala cash and the circumstances of the theft. Ramaphosa would still be expected to subject himself to these processes, Mashatile said.