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Public Protector clears Ramaphosa over farm cash

This latest ruling should allow the President to focus on his agenda – ending the power cuts and winning next year's vote

The rejection by the Public Protector of accusations against President Cyril Ramaphosa of wrongdoing over the discovery that he and his employees had been storing hundreds of thousands of dollars at his game farm boosts the beleaguered leader after his most difficult year in power.

The discovery of the US dollars in Ramaphosa's farm, which breaches the country's foreign exchange and anti-money laundering regulations, emerged in the course of an investigation into a theft at the building. Now the Public Protector's assessment ends the saga for Ramaphosa after the parliament had earlier voted against impeachment on the matter.

'Aggregated against the standard imposed by the executive ethics code it is found that there is no basis upon which to conclude that the president contravened' the law, interim ombudswoman, Kholeka Gcaleka said last week, after ending her inquiry.

The story broke in June 2022 when Arthur Fraser, the former head of the country's State Security Agency filed a complaint with the police alleging that Ramaphosa had concealed the 2020 theft of about $4m in cash from his game farm in Limpopo province (AC Vol 63 No 12, Zuma's securocrats rattle Ramaphosa & Vol 63 No 13, 'Farmgate' rocks Ramaphosa). 

Ramaphosa contended that only $580,000 had been stolen and had been intended as payment for livestock, also raising questions about whether he had broken state regulations on holding foreign currency.

Fraser's close ties to former President Jacob Zuma ensured that the case became another side of the factional battles between Ramaphosa and Zuma's loyalists and distracted the Presidency from the deepening energy and economic crises.

Last year, an independent panel led by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo convened by parliament found that Ramaphosa 'may have committed' serious violations and misconduct. 

A move to start impeachment proceedings was quickly defeated in parliament and the process did not derail Ramaphosa's confirmation as leader of the African National Congress party at last December's elective congress (AC Vol 63 No 25, President's fate rests with party). 

That may have further weakened Zuma's  faction in the ANC but Ramaphosa will continue to face residual opposition ahead of next year's elections – even if no one is prepared to risk formally challenging until after that vote.

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