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Cyril Ramaphosa’s farmgate grabs world’s attention

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s positive coverage by the media appeared to have reached its limit as media houses around the world continued to wag tongues as the PhalaPhala farmgate continued to take the centre stage in international media. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s positive coverage by the media appeared to have reached its limit as media houses around the world continued to wag tongues as the PhalaPhala farmgate continued to take the centre stage in international media. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jun 13, 2022

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Durban ​— President Cyril Ramaphosa’s days as the so-called “darling of the media” appears to have finally reached its limit as the embattled head of state continues to face a public lynching by international news organisations over the damning Phala Phala “Farmgate” saga which has taken global centre-stage.

Ramaphosa is accused of concealing alleged criminal activities on his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo, where Nambian suspects, with the help of Namibian President Hage Geingob, were abducted from Namibia and brought to Phala Phala farm and allegedly tortured for stealing millions of dollars hidden under Ramaphosa’s mattresses and couches at his farmhouse.

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The allegations were brought to the public’s attention by former spy head Arthur Fraser, who laid charges against Ramaphosa.

Leading the shocking, detailed revelations of the Phala Phala robbery was how the suspects were, at the instruction of Ramaphosa, beaten and bribed not to reveal any information to the public. The Namibian newspaper published various probing articles demanding accountability and stated that the two heads of state should come clean.

“It's questionable that President Geingob allegedly allowed Ramaphosa’s security apparatus to conduct extra-judicial operations in Namibia. Namibia should not tolerate being treated like a 10th province of South Africa,” read The Namibian editorial.

American news agency the Associated Press News (AP) last week reported that Ramaphosa had on Friday refused to answer questions in Parliament about his alleged cover-up of theft of large amounts of cash from his farm, saying only that he would appear before his party’s integrity committee over the accusations.

“He has confirmed that the theft took place and has denied any wrongdoing. He has said the money came from the sale of animals from the game farm. But Ramaphosa has dodged all questions seeking specific information about the robbery.

“He repeatedly declined to answer questions from reporters, including: How much cash was stolen? How did he obtain the foreign currency? Was it legally declared to South African authorities? Did he try to cover up his possession of the cash by bribing the thieves to keep quiet?”

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The AP said that the scandal surrounding the farm theft was the biggest challenge to Ramaphosa’s leadership and comes six months before a critical party elective conference in December, when Ramaphosa had already been expected to face a tough battle to be re-elected as the party’s leader.

Before becoming the deputy president in 2014, Ramaphosa was a prominent businessman with stakes in media, mining, telecoms, beverage and fast food companies.

Al Jazeera also weighed in and published an article stating: “Ramaphosa’s tenure has had its share of controversies, and Fraser’s allegations could impact the president’s career as the ruling ANC prepares to hold national elections in December.

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“As a number of government institutions begin probing the allegations by Fraser, it is only a matter of time before more details are revealed,” wrote Al Jazeera reporter Thabi Myeni.

Three days ago, the New York Times reported in its publication that the exposure had tumbled Ramaphosa’s presidency into a full-blown crisis.

“He has been accused of a lurid cover-up that includes having a team kidnap and interrogate the burglars, then paying the thieves to keep quiet to shield himself from allegations of money laundering and tax fraud associated with having that much foreign currency hidden in his house.”

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The article continued: “Ramaphosa, who rose to power as an anti-corruption crusader, had seemed headed toward relatively comfortable re-election this year as leader of South Africa’s dominant political party, the ANC. Now, as he seeks to contain the scandal, he made a rare move on Friday – he held a news conference to take questions from journalists. But looking weary following a raucous session in Parliament in which opposition politicians constantly interrupted and insulted him, Mr Ramaphosa provided reporters with little clarity on a saga people are calling Farmgate. He evaded questions about the episode with a repeated refrain: ‘due process’.”

On Friday, Ramaphosa suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane after she had announced that her office would be investigating the alleged criminal activities at his farm.

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