Impeachment Edges Closer for South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa

In a written statement submitted to the parliamentary panel, Mr. Ramaphosa denied paying off the suspects or attempting a cover-up. He said that on Christmas Day in 2019, a Sudanese citizen, Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim, bought 20 buffaloes from his farm. Mr. Ramaphosa said that he had not been present for the sale, but that the lodge manager had put the money in a safe on the property.

A few days later, preparing to leave for time off, the manager felt uncomfortable leaving the money in the safe because several staff members had access to it, Mr. Ramaphosa wrote. So the manager stashed the cash beneath cushions of a sofa in a spare bedroom in the president’s private residence at the farm, believing that no one would break into those quarters, Mr. Ramaphosa said.

About a month and a half later, on Feb. 9, 2020, the cash was stolen from the sofa.

The panel found that Mr. Ramaphosa’s version of events contradicted that of his security head. And his account was marred by holes, it said, lacking a clear explanation of who the Sudanese businessman was, why there was no written record of the sale or whether he had ever collected the buffaloes he purchased.

The panel seemed to frown on Mr. Ramaphosa’s failure to provide proof that he had reported the foreign currency to South Africa’s central bank or that he had paid taxes on it.

“There are weighty considerations which leave us in substantial doubt as to whether the stolen foreign currency is the proceeds of sale,” the report said.

Even more confusing was the decision to hide large sums of money in a sofa, which would have been visible to anyone, the panel said.

Ultimately, the panel concluded, there was evidence that the president may have violated the Constitution in conducting private business in conflict with his official duties as a public official, and may have broken anticorruption laws in failing to report the theft to the proper authorities.

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