EXPLAINER: Ramaphosa’s next move on Phala Phala and his options

ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 1, 2022


Durban - On Wednesday Judge Sandile Ngcobo led the Section 89 independent panel and found that President Cyril Ramaphosa may have a case to answer over the Phala Phala scandal.

The findings set the cat among pigeons and left Ramaphosa allies, both in government and in the ANC, scrambling to contain the fallout over the findings.

Equally, most people were left confused about what was next for the leader and whether it was the end of the road for him.

On the other side, several political parties in the opposition benches are calling on him to resign or be dragged out of the presidency which they claim he brought into disrepute.

Here is a step-by-step explainer of each available tool that can be used against him by his opponents to kick him out of office.


As soon as the panel's report was made public, there were calls for Ramaphosa to be impeached.

The calls came from the DA and ActionSA

However, the DA appears to be acutely aware that the ANC can use its majority in parliament to close ranks and block the process.

According to a research document by PMG (Parliamentary Monitoring Group), for an impeachment process to go through, it needs a two-thirds majority.

"As anyone who reads this column will know, section 89(1) of the South African Constitution allows (but does not require) the NA to remove the President from office through impeachment, but only by adopting a resolution with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members, and only on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; serious misconduct; or inability to perform the functions of the office," says the PMG document.

Even though the ANC lost its two-thirds majority long ago, it still has the power to block any move to impeach Ramaphosa.

It was for this reason the DA said it was hopeful that ANC MPs will come to the party and support the impeachment.

"While a vote on whether to institute impeachment proceedings against the president requires a 50% majority, we do hope that the ANC in parliament will put party interests aside and abide by the constitutional obligation we all have," the DA pleaded.

On the other hand, the African Transformation Movement (ATM) has the plan to ensure that anti-Ramaphosa ANC MPs vote to play the impeachment.

It said when parliament meets on Tuesday to deliberate on the report, it would propose a secret ballot. It cited the precedent set during the Jacob Zuma era when the Constitutional Court said the speaker of parliament has the power to order a secret ballot.

That leaves Ramaphosa vulnerable to a rebellion that may unseat him and cut his political career short.


With the Ramaphosa faction firmly in charge of the ANC right now, a recall is not possible unless he is overthrown as party leader at the elective conference later this month at Nasrec.

In that case, he would be left powerless and at the mercy of the winning faction. By all accounts, that faction is likely to recall him, thus meting out the same treatment that was dished to Thabo Mbeki in 2008 and Zuma in 2018.


The step-aside resolution has been refined over the years and there has been an outcry that it was been refined according to who it should be used against.

When ANC branches adopted it, it was meant to clean the party of tainted characters, but it was later refined to say that you should only step aside if you have been criminally charged.

It was, for this reason, Ace Mgashule was forced out of his office and his political career seemingly ruined for good.

Ramaphosa’s supporters are already defiant, saying he has not been criminally charged, as such, he can’t be forced to step aside.

That hasn't stopped the likes of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma from calling on Ramaphosa to step aside.

The senior ANC NEC (national executive committee) member made this call on Wednesday shortly after the release of the damaging findings by the panel.

Others are calling for Ramaphosa to step aside are citing the Dr Zweli Mkhize's example, saying he resigned from his position even though he had not been criminally charged, setting an example that responsible leaders should resign or step aside the moment they are fingered and fight to clear their names.

Legal options

Does Ramaphosa have legal options? It appears that, yes he has some and he would resort to using them to save his career or to starve off attempts to haul him over the coals weeks before the elective conference.

His supporters have already started punching holes in the report, claiming that it cannot withstand further legal scrutiny, signalling that they may go to court and force a stalemate until at least the conference is over.

Ramaphosa Cabinet resigning in solidarity?

Another possibility is that if Ramaphosa loses at the elective conference and is recalled by the victorious ANC faction, cabinet members loyal to him may resign in protest and form a party like COPE.

That party may likely be in alliance with opposition parties who have already signalled that they will in 2024 form a coalition to unseat the ANC.

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