SA President refusing to resign even after being found wanting
President Cyril Ramaphosa has struck a defiant note, saying he intends to stay in office and stand for election in the ANC’s presidential race later this month.
On Sunday, he will take his fight to the ANC’s national working committee in what is expected to be a battle for political survival following a clamour of calls for his early exit over the Phala Phala affair.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told the Sunday Times that his boss has “no intention of resigning” and that the president will take the independent panel report on judicial review.
Ramaphosa spent yesterday holed up in his Johannesburg home preparing for the make-or-break NWC meeting today and a national executive committee (NEC) meeting tomorrow that will decide his fate after three days of high drama that have engrossed the nation.
Ramaphosa met with senior ANC members on Saturday, and is believed to have told them of his decision to fight the panel report in court.
He also met with Presidency officials to discuss government work.
“No, he has no intention of resigning,” Magwenya told the Sunday Times.
“Weighing the prospects of a sitting head of state going through an impeachment process, and what that would mean for the stability of the government and the country, resigning was an option [that was] explored but it was never a definitive decision,” he said.
“Furthermore, the president could not have made a decision without going through the processes of his own governing party. In all the different options available to the president, the best interest of the country was first and foremost in his mind.
“Second, the structures of the … ANC have given a very unequivocal directive, in their nominations of the president for a second leadership term, that they want him to continue leading the renewal of their organisation and state and economic reforms.”
Magwenya said the section 89 report had long-term implications for South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
“It is in the long-term interest and sustainability of our constitutional democracy, well beyond the Ramaphosa presidency, that such a clearly flawed report is challenged, especially when it’s being used as a point of reference to remove a sitting head of state,” he said.
There was high drama this week after the independent panel appointed by parliament found that Ramaphosa has a case to answer in relation to the theft of foreign currency from his Phala Phala game farm in 2020. Parliament will vote on Tuesday on whether to set up an impeachment committee to take the matter further.
As the section 89 report sent shockwaves through South Africa, Ramaphosa veered between quitting or staying the course. After reportedly initially telling his advisers on Thursday he would resign, just 48 hours later his office said he would take the report — by a panel headed by retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo — on review and cling to the presidency. He is relying on majority support at the NEC meeting.
If he gets the NEC’s backing to stay on he will also need ANC MPs to reject Ngcobo’s report and vote against an impeachment inquiry on Tuesday. If a majority of MPs vote for an impeachment inquiry, it would almost certainly mean his stepping aside and not running for re-election at the ANC conference.
Ramaphosa’s allies are rallying behind him.
Justice minister Ronald Lamola, referring to pressure on Ramaphosa to quit, told the Sunday Times: “It’s premature, the president must exercise his rights on this flawed report, and there is no basis for the findings of the report, it’s not corroborated. So he must exercise his rights on the report [by reviewing it in court] and therefore there is no basis for him to leave.”
Lamola said Ramaphosa had duties that he had to carry out. “He must clear his name, proceed with his duties, allow the other processes of investigations to happen. And they will still hold him accountable because he subjects himself to processes and he does not interfere, he’s a constitutional being. So no-one will be threatened or scared to investigate.”
Lamola said such institutions as the Hawks, the South African Revenue Service “or whoever” would be able to carry out investigations unhindered.
He must clear his name, proceed with his duties, allow the other processes of investigations to happen
An NEC meeting that was called to discuss the report on Friday was adjourned after questions were raised over procedural issues.
Ramaphosa himself did not show up for it, and some ANC members, including former president Thabo Mbeki, are said to have insisted that he must be present when the report is discussed.
Mbeki, according to those who were at the meeting, said he wants to confront Ramaphosa “face to face”.
Some felt Ramaphosa had shown disrespect for the ANC by staying away from the meeting on Friday while finding time, in the words of his spokesperson, to consult other “stakeholders” about the report.
“You cannot go around briefing everyone else, while, when it is time to do the same with the party that deployed you to government, you pull a no-show,” said a provincial leader.
“The man must come and present himself before the NEC and account on the serious things the panel report is saying about him and what that does to the image of the ANC.”
Senior ANC leaders told the Sunday Times that a new cabinet list, believed to have the approval of Deputy President David Mabuza and ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile had been drafted in expectation that Ramaphosa was on the brink of leaving office.
Mabuza, in this scenario, would automatically take over as interim president.
But a close ally of Mashatile’s, NEC member Nkenke Kekana, told the Sunday Times that the claims were “absolute rubbish”.
The Sunday Times understands that the reshuffle would also see the return of the likes of Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba.
Out in the cold, according to those who said they had sight of the list, were Ramaphosa’s key allies such as Mmamoloko Kubayi — who has challenged Mashatile for the position of deputy president — and minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele, among others.
Gungubele and mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe, who are among those who persuaded Ramaphosa not to quit, were going to be axed, along with public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
But Kekana said this was just a spin from people who wanted to change the narrative. There was no basis to call for Ramaphosa’s removal and the NEC should allow the parliamentary process to run its course.
“A matter like this one is better left to conference because conference will express its support for the president or its disapproval of the president. You do not want a situation where the NEC’s decision gets challenged by conference. Let’s allow conference to decide the fate of this sitting president,” said Kekana.
He said instead of debating whether to recall Ramaphosa, the NEC should command its parliamentary caucus to vote in favour of establishing an ad-hoc committee that could lead to his impeachment.
“The caucus and the committee of parliament, now that the panel says there may be prima facie evidence, must start a process of engaging with the information that was collected by the panel — similar to what’s happening with the public protector,” he said.
He said former presidents Mbeki and Jacob Zuma were only recalled when they were no longer party presidents.
“I’m saying what the NEC cannot do at this stage is to recall the president or call on the president to resign.”
He said only the ANC’s integrity commission can ask Ramaphosa to step aside. Absent this, the NEC could not take a decision to axe Ramaphosa because there would be no basis on which to do so. The integrity commission is expected to present a report at the NEC on December 9.
“The president is being judged on the issue of morality,” Kekana said.
“Now the thing about morality is, we have to say whether we approve or disapprove of the behaviour of the president based on a moral value … whether something is good or bad, or right or wrong. Now if you want to make a call on morality and ethics … the integrity committee is better placed to deal with this matter.”