Ramaphosa on the ropes – As President remains calm over Farmgate, RET faction plots his demise
The opening of a criminal case against President Cyril Ramaphosa has come at a most inconvenient time for the ANC as it holds its crucial provincial conferences. Ramaphosa’s enemies in the ANC and opposition parties such as the EFF and UDM are baying for blood. Some in the RET faction have started a #RamaphosaMustFall hashtag on social media networks.
The public furore over the burglary of allegedly millions of dollars hidden in sofa cushions at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Limpopo game farm was already reaching fever pitch when a delegation of secretaries and chairpersons from all eleven KwaZulu-Natal ANC regions descended on Nkandla on Tuesday, 7 June, to confer with and receive “wisdom” from former president Jacob Zuma.
The saga – which began when Zuma ally and former spy boss Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa at the Rosebank Police Station on Wednesday, June 1 – caught the ANC and its alliance structures unprepared.
The allegations came at a time when the ANC is holding crucial provincial conferences, with the North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State conferences still outstanding. The Western Cape ANC region has also not yet held its provincial elective conference, owing to instability. Before the allegations against him surfaced, Ramaphosa appeared to hold a seemingly unassailable lead, having been endorsed by Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, with the Northern Cape also in his corner.
It was never going to be a shoo-in for Ramaphosa, with so much at stake for Zuma and the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) faction.
The first salvo in what some RET faction members say are many more attacks on Ramaphosa’s credibility was Fraser’s allegation that he had provided police with evidence showing that Ramaphosa had concealed a crime on his Limpopo farm involving a theft of “in excess of four million US dollars” and that the suspects had been kidnapped and interrogated.
The Hawks have taken over the investigation and, before Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was suspended by Ramaphosa on 9 June, she had confirmed that her office was investigating after African Transformation Movement leader Vuyo Zungula had lodged a complaint against Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa has defended himself, saying the stolen cash was the proceeds from the sale of the animals he breeds on the farm, and he has not done anything illegal. He has also committed himself to cooperating with all the investigations and has voluntarily approached the ANC’s Integrity Commission to state his case.
The manner in which the ANC handles and reacts to allegations made against Cyril Ramaphosa will be a true litmus test of his popularity within the party.
So far, the President has enjoyed support from many of his allies in the party, which clearly explains why he has not stepped aside from his position and is rather appearing before the ANC’s Integrity Commission.
The party’s National Working Committee held a meeting on 6 June where the matter was discussed – but only because Tony Yengeni insisted on it. Party insiders said that the matter was never on the agenda, but that Yengeni protested until other members of the committee agreed. He was at the forefront of the discussion slanting towards Ramaphosa having to step aside, but was outvoted by others on the committee.
A National Executive Committee (NEC) member who is not aligned to Ramaphosa told Daily Maverick that it is time the President faced the music.
“Money laundering and tax evasion are a very serious transgression; he must just do the honourable thing and step side,” said the senior party member.
A close ally of the President described him as being “calm” and “unbothered” throughout the backlash he is receiving within the party and from the public.
Ramaphosa’s ally raised concerns that the “unexpected” revelations about the President came to light only because it is an ANC elective conference and went on to call it a “counterattack” against Ramaphosa’s efforts to fight corruption.
On the morning of 9 June, NEC member Nkenke Kekana called in to Radio 702 in his own capacity, backing Ramaphosa. He argued that there are more pressing matters that the country has to deal with.
“Out of nowhere, Arthur goes to Rosebank Police Station and says there is this and we just take it in. All of a sudden there is a trial in the media about all this, without any investigation.
“I just find it ridiculous that we are obsessed with individuals in the country, when we have really big issues that need to be confronted,” Kekana insisted.
He then reiterated his stance about the reportage of the story, saying that journalists have so far failed to interrogate Fraser’s allegations thoroughly.
“All that I am saying is that when it comes to the world of Arthur Fraser, there is smoke and mirrors. The intention is to create instability and doubt in the country’s leadership. I am not saying the President should not answer, he should answer and there is an investigation and we should respect that and the President should give answers to all the questions. You are already stating it as facts that $4-million to $8-million is a lot of money. Did he provide some kind of proof, for us to start putting the figure as fact?” he said.
Ramaphosa’s enemies in the ANC and opposition parties such as the EFF and UDM are baying for blood.
Some in the RET faction have started a #RamaphosaMustFall hashtag on social media networks.
One of the ANC regional leaders who met Zuma this week and is part of the RET faction, who asked not to be named, said now that Ramaphosa has been wounded, they are going to finish him off politically.
“We are now exposing him for what he is. There is going to be one scandal after another and I don’t see him standing for re-election in December,” he said.
On the contrary, the SACP stood firmly in Ramaphosa’s corner, with Alex Mashilo, SACP spokesperson and member of the party’s Central Executive Committee, saying the SACP welcomed the President coming forward and saying he would cooperate with the investigation.
“It is critical that he does so and does so resolutely,” Mashilo said, adding that there are many across the political spectrum who are jumping to say that President Ramaphosa must fall so that they can achieve their own political goals.
“We see this as part and parcel of a strategy of those who are in contestation with the President,” said Mashilo. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.
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