Phala Phala: Ramaphosa’s Fate In The Balance

Phala Phala: Ramaphosa’s Fate In The Balance

Phala Phala: Ramaphosa’s Fate In The Balance

It seems almost unfathomable – two presidents in a row facing scandals over nefarious dealings at their respective properties. 

The first, of course, was former president Jacob Zuma whose corrupt dealings extended far beyond the boundary walls of his Nkandla residence. The latter, our current president Cyril Ramaphosa who was accused of laundering money and abusing his power following the theft of millions of rands stowed away in furniture at his Phala Phala reserve. 

Such were the accusations, that Financial Mail reports Ramaphosa even prepared a resignation speech – before backtracking swiftly and determinedly. So what is the fate of the ruling party and country? 

The Section 89 panel report

While South Africans are certainly thankful that our lawmakers are finally taking a stance against corruption in upper ranks, many find it rather puzzling that matters would reach a head so swiftly in the Ramaphosa debacle, given how protracted and ineffectual the investigations and decisions around the conduct of his predecessor. 

As Ivor Chipkin, director of the New South Institute states, “We have become so accustomed to being in crisis that we cannot see when a crisis is not one.” Chipkin notes that the Phala Phala affair is not an indication of a country in crisis, but of a party in crisis. 

There are those in the opposite camp who argue that Ramaphosa apologists keep underplaying his role in corrupt dealings, and that the Section 89 panel report is an indication of a judiciary which has finally pulled up its socks. 

Ramaphosa claims no grounds for impeachment

On 5 December 2022, President Ramaphosa made an application to the Constitutional Court requesting access to challenge the Section 89 panel report. This was a swift 180 following indications that the president had already drafted his resignation letter. 

The Section 89 panel was overseen by Justice S Sandile Ngcobo, a retired Chief Justice, supported by Justice Thokozile Masipa, a retired judge of the high court, and Advocate Mahlape Sello, SC. 

Ramaphosa claims that the panel’s conclusions are flawed and their recommendations irrational – especially given this is the first time a sitting president has faced impeachment. Furthermore, the president states that the panel bases most of its ‘evidence’ on hearsay provided by former State Security Agency (SSA) head Arthur fraser, who not only illegally released former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole during his tenure, but is also implicated in theft of R1-billion from the SSA. 

While Ramaphosa has asked the Constitutional Court to intervene, the National Assembly is set to vote on the fate of the president on 13 December 2022. 

As for the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) – they have already decided to keep Ramaphosa in office. 

This is where matters become rather tricky. Unlike the epic Zuma saga which pitted two distinct groups against each other (those who supported his corruption and those who didn’t), the support and opposition against Ramaphosa has a notable grey band traversing the public and private sector. 

As Mandy Wiener for EWN notes – it’s not simply that we hold our leaders to a low standard, but that we also need to consider who will follow in Ramaphosa’s footsteps were he to resign. In fact, there’s every indication that his current fight (as opposed to resignation) was on the urging of others who do not want to leave the country’s rule in the hands of someone who will most probably be less competent and less liked universally. 

Moral rot or conspiracy?

International Political Economy expert and scholar of International Relations Oscar van Heerden is of the opinion that Ramaphosa’s downfall is a well-orchestrated coup. 

Most lately, there was strong opposition from the EFF (which has always been vocal about their disdain for Ramaphosa) to include law Professor Richard Calland in the Section 89 panel as Van Heerden claims there’s every likelihood that the panel report will have been far different had Calland been involved. 

South Africa’s current speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula who gave the panel a mere 30 days to finalise their report and denied their requests for extension, is none other than our former Minister of Defense and Military Veterans who was removed from her post following her actions (and inactions) during the July 2021 riots. She was removed from her post after denying claims of insurrection made by Ramaphosa, and yet swiftly nominated as speaker and voted in. 

Mapisa-Nqakula’s appointment as speaker was deemed by opposition parties as an act of insurrection itself, and a deliberately aimed at disarming parliament from ensuring accountability and transparency – especially since was under investigation for taking R5-million in bribes and spending R7 million on private jet holidays in New York and Paris. 

Appointing her as speaker also highlighted the fractures within the ANC, as her appointment was clearly not okayed by the president himself. The fractures within the ANC have become increasingly visible over the past few years, and Rand Rescue has also reported on how this came to a head during the riots. 

Whether or not there’s a vendetta against Ramaphosa, we still need to be cognisant of the implications of the Phala Phala saga. Two wrongs don’t make a right, after all. Just because his detractors have it in for him doesn’t give him a free pass if his actions were indeed unlawful. And while we may want to be hopeful that his actions weren’t excessively criminal – there’s no denying that they certainly point towards a moral decay. 

This is the greatest conundrum for ordinary South Africans. As is the case in other countries, it seems people are being asked more and more to choose between the lesser of two evils. The problem is that the rot which has infected our political system has spread so wide and hampered the country’s health for so long that we no longer know what it is to have competent leadership. We no longer know what it feels like to choose someone who is right for us instead of someone who is less wrong for us. 

We keep putting all our fragile eggs in the basket of one political hopeful instead of a party which has our backs and holds its own accountable for their actions.

Teetering markets

As South Africans sit with bated breath once more to see what will become of our leadership, the very real reality is that investor sentiments won’t be bolstered by either choice made about Ramaphosa next week.

The safest place for your money is most probably outside of SA. If you’re a South African who plans on moving abroad or already living elsewhere, talk to Rand Rescue about  the options for moving your money abroad. 


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  1. [REPORT] “REPORT of the Section 89 Independent Panel Appointed to Conduct A Preliminary Enquiry on the Motion proposing a Section 89 Enquiry”. 2022. Vol. 1 
  2. Chipkin, Ivor. 2022. “OPINIONISTA: Phala Phala Is Not A Crisis For South Africa; It Is A Crisis For Cyril Ramaphosa And The ANC”. Daily Maverick. 
  3. Thukwana, Ntando. 2022. “Bank Stocks Took A Hammering From Phala Phala Saga”. Moneyweb. 
  4. Mitchley, Alex. 2022. “‘Nefarious Stunt’: Limpopo Dept Denies Issuing Statement On Phala Phala | News24”. News24. 
  5. Wiener, Mandy. 2022. “MANDY WIENER: Phala Phala Accelerated The ANC’s Ramaphosa Vacuum Crisis”. Ewn.Co.Za. 
  6. “Sudanese Buffalo Buyer At Phala Phala Says He Declared $580,000 Cash At OR Tambo Airport”. 2022. Sowetanlive. 
  7. Mahlati, Zintle. 2022. “Nkandla Or Phala Phala, ‘We Have A Duty To Defend’ Office Of ANC Presidency – Gwede Mantashe | News24”. News24. 
  8. Thamm, Marianne. 2022. “RAMAPHOSA FIGHTS BACK : Phala Phala Panel Report – Information Is Not Evidence, Says President In Concourt Challenge To Impeachment Findings”. Daily Maverick. 
  9. “Phala Phala: Ramaphosa’S Rubicon Moment”. 2022. Businesslive. 
  10. “Parliamentary Vote On Phala Phala Report Postponed”. 2022. The Mail & Guardian. 
  11. Felix, Jason. 2022. “Phala Phala: Mervyn Dirks Leads Charge For ANC Mps To Vote For Ramaphosa Impeachment | News24”. News24. 
  12. Van Heerden, Oscar. 2022. “Oscar Van Heerden | Phala Phala: A Bloodless Coup Manufactured | News24”. News24. 
  13. “South Africa’s parliament elects a recently fired ex-defence minister as speaker”. 2021. Africanews. 
  14. “22 More Die As Violence Grips South Africa After Zuma Court Hearing”. 2021. Daily Sabah.
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