South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been cleared of wrongdoing in a preliminary report into a cover-up scandal involving the theft of large amounts of cash from his luxury Phala Phala farm. The Public Protector notified implicated parties of the preliminary findings of its probe, which accused Ramaphosa of attempting to conceal the theft. The scandal involved about $500,000 in cash that was stolen from beneath sofa cushions at his ranch in June. Ramaphosa acknowledged the theft, claiming the money was payment for buffalos bought by a Sudanese businessman. However, he was accused of not reporting the matter to the police.
The report exonerates Ramaphosa but found the head of the presidential protection unit, to whom Ramaphosa reported the crime, acted improperly by investigating the case directly instead of reporting it to the police. The findings will bring some respite to Ramaphosa, who has been dogged by the allegations for months. However, the scandal almost cost him his job in December when he narrowly escaped a parliamentary vote that could have initiated proceedings to remove him from office. It has also endangered his chances of securing a second term after next year’s elections.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, at the weekend said that the president did not participate in any wrongdoing, nor did he violate the oath of his office. Instead, he was a victim of a crime that he duly reported to the relevant authorities. A police investigation is still ongoing, with the head of an elite unit stating earlier this week that detectives have collected more than 120 statements as part of their probe into the affair.
The left-wing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party described the findings as “nonsensical”. The scandal has tarnished Ramaphosa’s reputation, but the report clears him of any wrongdoing. Despite this, the investigation is still ongoing, and the scandal has already caused damage to his reputation and political standing. The president will need to continue to address these issues and restore trust with the South African people.
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