South Africa’s Farmgate scandal: what is it and what does it matter?

Who’s in trouble?

Cyril Ramaphosa took power as President of South Africa in 2018 and led the ruling African National Congress party into a general election a year later. He campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, attracting much support after the turbulent nine-year rule of his populist predecessor Jacob Zuma, which was ousted by a series of major scandals. Ramaphosa, 70, has since struggled to push through much-needed reforms and faced fierce resistance from Zuma loyalists.

A former Labor activist once tipped for a free presidency South Africa By Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa amassed a fortune as a businessman when he took a break from politics after being passed over in favor of others. They also enjoy raising and herding valuable animals including cattle. These business and personal interests are now threatening a premature end to his political career.


In early 2020 somewhere between $500,000 and 5m was stolen from Ramaphosa’s game ranch in Phala Fala, Limpopo province. The cash does not appear to have been declared to strict local anti-money laundering regulations or tax. Nor was its theft reported to the police. Instead, a presidential bodyguard was tasked with tracking down the money and possibly paying off the culprits. The local media called the scandal Farmgate.

What just happened?

Reported by an independent panel appointed by Parliament obtaining evidence of any wrongdoing which may constitute gross misconductViolation of the constitution and violation of the oath of office of the President. None of this is ideal for a president elected to root out corruption and restore probity in public life. But the real problem is that parliament can impeach Ramaphosa, who says he is innocent.

So what now?

Parliament will vote on whether the impeachment will proceed. A two-thirds majority would be necessary for the move, meaning about half of the ANC’s members would have to vote with the opposition parties. This is unlikely, as Ramaphosa has long been seen as the party’s best candidate for the 2024 general elections, but is possible. Even if impeachment moves forward, it is a long process.

Whatever happens, Ramaphosa will face a bid to replace him as ANC leader at a crucial election conference next month. He is believed to have overcome any such challenge, but he has been weakened. If he loses the party post, it will be difficult for him to hold on to the presidency for very long.

What does this mean for South Africa?

The rand declined on news of a possible impeachment, reflecting fears in international markets for the country’s political stability and the future of a leader considered business-friendly. south africa are facing nationwide power cuts that have crippled businesses, rising unemployment, anemic growth, a failing education system and inadequate healthcare. Battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the current global economic crisis, a change of leader forced by bitter internal competition between factions will be the last thing the country needs.

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