South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa defies scandal to win party vote

The win ends a bruising political week for President Cyril Ramaphosa

South Africa’s scandal-hit President Cyril Ramaphosa has been re-elected leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

He defeated his rival Zweli Mkhize by 2,476 votes to 1,897.

Mr Ramaphosa won despite being dogged by allegations of money laundering, and a last-minute surge in support for Mr Mkhize, who has also been accused of corruption. Both deny the allegations.

His victory puts him in pole position to lead the ANC in the 2024 election.

But he is still at risk as he is being investigated by the police, the tax office and the central bank over allegations that he stashed at least $580,000 in a sofa at his private farm, and then covered up his theft.

A panel of legal experts, appointed by the speaker of parliament, said that impeachment proceedings should be instituted against him as he may have both violated the constitution and broken anti-corruption legislation.

Mr Ramaphosa’s re-election bid was bolstered by the fact that the ANC used its parliamentary majority to vote down the findings of the panel.

The president has denied any wrongdoing, and has launched legal action to cancel the panel’s report.

He said the $580,000 came from the sale of buffaloes, but the panel said there was “substantial doubt” over whether a transaction took place.

Mr Mkhize was the health minister in Mr Ramaphosa’s government, until he was forced to resign last year over allegations of misspending funds set aside to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He too has denied any wrongdoing, and his supporters saw the allegations as an attempt to discredit him.

Mr Ramaphosa was the odds-on favorite to win, but Mr Mkhize gained more votes than expected after offering key posts to other powerful leaders in deals struck just ahead of delegates casting their ballots at the conference.

Both sides denied accusations of vote-buying.

The ANC has been in power since white-minority rule ended in 1994, and is hoping to secure a sixth term in the 2024 parliamentary election. But opinion polls suggest that its vote has shrunk considerably because of widespread corruption in government, high unemployment and poor public services – including constant power cuts.

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