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Security officers forcibly removed members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party from the South African Parliament. They had heckled President Cyril Ramaphosa during a speech and called him to step down pending a criminal investigation into allegations that he covered up a theft from his rural game farm. Despite Thursday’s exclusion, the MPs are determined to question the president. Babalwa Mathulelwa, Member of South Africa’s parliament , Economic Freedom Fighters party
“We’re not scared. We’re going come for them. We are 44 members of parliament, EFF MP Babalwa Mathulelwa said. There will be no rest for Cyril in this house. He must know his life is going to become uncomfortable because we can’t use this honorable house to cover up his money laundering activities.”
Ramaphosa was trying to present the annual budget for his office when he was confronted to searing comments on the allegations of kidnapping and corruption levelled against him. The scandal has proved a major blow to Ramaphosa’s image as a leader committed to stamping out corruption in South Africa. His strong stance against corruption propelled him to power in 2018 when former President Jacob Zuma was forced to step down from power amid widespread graft allegations.
Crisis of credibility
When the kidnapping and corruption accusations emerged last week, John Steenhuisen, the leader of the Democratic Alliance party said Ramaphosa was facing “a crisis of credibility”.
Following Thursday’s legislature’s session, he called again for “full, clear, frank public disclosure” around the affair. “It’s back to the future, again, with the Nkandla matter (former President Jacob Zuma used public funds to make improvements to his home, ed), and it’s very, very clear that this is not going to go away”, he added.
“In recent days we have seen those who stand to lose the most from the fight against corruption resorting to dirty tricks and intimidation in a bid to get us to back down,” Ramaphosa said in his speech. Adding: “But we will not waver. We will not blink. We will finish what has been started”, as hecklers interrupted him.
Some of the questions Ramaphosa has been asked include: How much money in U.S. dollars was stolen from his farm? Where did the money come from? Was the foreign exchange declared to the South African Revenue Service?
The populist Economic Freedom Fighters, the second-largest opposition party in Parliament, said it has briefed its lawyers to launch legal proceedings to force Ramaphosa to step down pending the criminal investigation.
What political future?
The questions surrounding the theft come as Ramaphosa seeks re-election as the leader of the ruling party, the African National Congress, at its national conference in December this year.
Another opposition party, the United Democratic Movement, has formally requested Parliament to launch its own probe into the matter and for Ramaphosa to appear before it. South Africa’s top anti-corruption official has opened a case into the affair.
In South Africa, the president may be removed from office by a vote of no confidence by Parliament.