South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa is facing a possible impeachment threat after he was accused of covering up a $4m (£3.3m) theft from his farm in 2020, including kidnapping and bribing the burglars into silence, a scandal now known in South Africa as “Farmgate”.
The Farmgate scandal erupted in June, when a former South African spy boss, Arthur Fraser, filed a complaint with police accusing the president of hiding a theft of $4m from his Phala Phala farm in the north-east of the country in 2020.
Fraser, who is a close ally of former President Jacob Zuma, alleged that the money could have been the proceeds of money-laundering and corruption, and accused the president of kidnapping and bribing the burglars.
Ramaphosa confirmed a robbery, but said the amount stolen was less than that alleged, and denied attempting to cover it up.
Some $580,000 which had been paid in cash for buffalo was stolen from under sofa cushions in the farmhouse, he said.
“I did not ‘hunt’ for the perpetrators of the theft, as alleged, nor did I give any instructions for this to take place,” he wrote in a submission to the panel’s report, according to AFP news agency
A leaked report from an independent panel found that Ramaphosa abused his position and may have broken an anti-corruption law.
He denied wrongdoing saying the money was from selling buffalo.
The panel’s findings have been handed to parliament, which is set to examine them and decide whether or not to launch impeachment proceedings next week.
Ramaphosa is less than a month away from a conference which will decide if he can run for a second term with his party, the African National Congress (ANC), in 2024 and this scandal could damage his ambitions as he ran for office on an anti-corruption ticket.
The ANC will hold a meeting with its executive on Thursday, December 1 where it is expected that the issue will be discussed.
The panel investigating the scandal say they concluded that there were many unanswered questions, calling it a “very serious matter”.
They say little information was kept about the man who supposedly paid the money for buffalo, adding that the person had still not collected the animals two and a half years later.
The panel also said it was strange that the money had been kept hidden in a sofa, rather than in a safe until it could be lodged in a bank account.
“We think that the president has a case to answer on the origin of the foreign currency that was stolen, as well as the underlying transaction for it,” The panel report said.
“The president abused his position as head of state to have the matter investigated and seeking the assistance of the Namibian president to apprehend a suspect.”