Johannesburg – South African President Ramaphosa survived a move to start impeachment proceedings against him in a vote in parliament on Tuesday.
The move was widely expected, after the top leadership ruling African National Congress (ANC) called on their parliamentary caucus to block the investigation.
One by one, MPs were asked to articulate their vote in person after requests to hold the vote in secret will ruled out by the Speaker of Parliament.
There were a few ‘yes’ votes from ANC members, and a couple of no-shows, but their caucus largely held together. Opposition parties were mostly unified on calling for an impeachment enquiry. The vote required a simple majority.
The vote came after an independent panel independent panel found there is initial evidence that he could have violated his oath of office.
The findings relate to an ongoing scandal linked to the theft of more than $500,000 in cash from his private game farm in 2020. The cash was stuffed inside a leather sofa according to the panel investigation.
The panel, led by a former chief justice, found that the crime was not reported to the police and that there was a ‘deliberate decision to keep the investigation secret.’
After initial speculation that he would resign, Ramaphosa’s lawyers have sought to challenge the panel’s findings in court. The president has repeatedly denied the allegations saying the money was from the sale of wildlife at his Phala Phala farm.
Later this week, the president will contest an ANC elective conference, where he is widely expected to win.
The vote was preceded by a spirited debate where opposition party leaders lambasted both the president for not providing a fuller explanation for the cash and the ANC caucus for backing him.
“You are so desperate to avoid any type of investigation into the crimes that have occurred in and in relation to the Phala Phala farm that you have decided to spit in the face of the freedoms and institutions so many people fought and died for,” said Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters.
“As long as you have the numbers in parliament, you can make any scandal go away and if that is how you intend to vote today, in one unified shield against accountability and oversight, just like you did in the Zuma days then shame on you,” said John Steenhuisen, the leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance, referring to Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma who was never censured by parliament, but was eventually forced to resign after a corruption scandal.
ANC members said that the report did not provide enough evidence to move towards an impeachment proceeding. The president still could face multiple investigations outside of parliament.