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ANC likely to lose power in South Africa following possible Ramaphosa’s impeachment

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In the ANC – a party so long in power now feel more like open-warfare – the campaigning and jockeying are in full swing. The party is due to select a leader later this month – with Mr Ramaphosa an easy favourite to win. But those calculations are now changing fast.

It’s been widely reported that Mr Ramaphosa has already decided to quit, but is being persuaded by allies to think again, or at least to buy time in order to ensure a smooth transition to someone credible.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is certainly hoping to capitalise on the current crisis, calling for early elections. So, the ANC’s decline could be both inevitable scenario and good for the country’s young democracy.

The ANC has dominated South Africa’s politics since democracy in 1994, has been sliding steadily in the last two decades. The ANC built its 2019 election campaign around Ramaphosa, after polls showed that he was the only leader who continued to enjoy substantial credibility among voters.

Some analysts claimed that Mr. Ramaphosa’s resignation – if it happens, would be exemplary for Africa – here’s a leader who voluntarily resigned.

A potential impeachment of President Cyril Ramaphosa is a “historic moment” for the country. Ramaphosa was not opposed to resigning from office before a meeting by the African National Congress’s (ANC) National Executive Committee determines his fate.

This comes after a three-person panel found that the president might have breached the constitution and engaged in corrupt activities. 
The panel, led by Justice Sandile Ngcobo, found the president has a case to answer in the cover up of a robbery at his private farm, Phala Phala, in February 2020. It is alleged that a $600,000 robbery was covered up at his Phala Phala Farm in February 2020. The money was allegedly hidden in a sofa and not declared to the South African Reserve Bank. The parliamentary panel raised questions about the source of the money and why it wasn’t disclosed to financial authorities, and cited a potential conflict between the president’s business and official interests.

Mapisa-Nqakula appointed the panel in September after a motion by a small opposition party, the African Transformation Movement, called for Ramaphosa’s removal on the grounds of “a serious violation of the Constitution or the law and serious misconduct”.

The Phala Phala scandal has  tarnished Ramaphosa’s reputation as an anti-corruption champion and derailed his chances of winning a second term as president of the ANC at its national conference in December. The robbery was first brought to light in June by Arthur Fraser, the country’s former head of the State Security Agency and a close ally of South Africa’s disgraced former President Jacob Zuma.

 According to ANC rules, anyone charged with corruption or other crimes must step down while criminal investigations take place.

However, there is no enough information to force Ramaphosa to resign. If he does not get charged and it is simply just this impeachment process, he will try to shore up his base and ride it out.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s fate is now in the hands of a faction of the ANC that spent the past five years trying to get rid of him.

Leading the charge has been Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who insists that her presidential campaign is still on track despite failing to reach the threshold required for this. The ANC was expected to hold an urgent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on Thursday following the release of the report of the panel chaired by retired Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo on the Phala Phala matter.

Ramaphosa’s enemies — including NEC members Tony Yengeni and Lindiwe Sisulu — are expected to turn the heat on him to step down or be forced to resign.

They are also pushing for the meeting to be held in person and not virtually.

The calls for Ramaphosa to resign were triggered by the report, which found that the president may have violated the law.

Since losing control of the ANC in the 2017 elective conference at Nasrec, the faction led by former president Jacob Zuma has been plotting to topple Ramaphosa at every turn.

Thus, there’s no doubt that the case against Mr Ramaphosa was – at least to begin with – politically motivated.

It seems unlikely – but still possible – that Mr Zuma’s faction within the ANC will be able to capitalise on the chaos, return to power, and derail the entire anti-corruption drive. That would be a recipe for political oblivion at the next elections.

However, even a moderately competent replacement for Mr Ramaphosa is likely to shake the markets and drive away the few foreign investors still willing to give South Africa a chance, at a time when the economy – grappling with almost daily power cuts – is struggling to recover from the pandemic, and from the years of state corruption during Mr Zuma’s era.

More than half the members of the current NEC have been thought to be implicated in various allegations of misconduct, including fraud and corruption.

Many have called for the shelving of the entire Zondo Commission report, while Ramaphosa has made it the cornerstone of his rule.

The prosecution of senior ANC members in the coming months may flow from this report.

Ramaphosa’s business interests are threatening to jeopardise his presidency, with dire consequences for the country given the important economic and political reforms he is pursuing. The Phala Phala scandal is not just a threat for Ramaphosa, but could seriously hurt his party’s prospects as it faces gruelling national and provincial elections in 2024.

But his image as anti-corruption champion – and vote winner – is now in doubt because of the Phala Phala scandal.

It would be the first time a president’s fitness for office was assessed since parliament adopted the rules for impeachment in 2018, following a Constitutional Court judgment. The impeachment process, depending on the way the panel applies the law, will set an important precedent.

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