Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm robbery has continued to sow divisions within the ANC’s national executive committee, with some members calling for him to step down and others defending him.
This unfolded during an NEC meeting that ended yesterday at Nasrec, according to insiders.
The party is preparing for its 55th national elective conference, expected to take place from December 16 to 20, where Ramaphosa is seeking a second term as ANC president.
Sources at the meeting said the ones to fire the first salvos were presidential contender Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and NEC member Tony Yengeni, who both called for the president to step down.
Ramaphosa had attempted to explain the matter to the NEC on the first day of the meeting.
However, his close allies Dr Naledi Pandor and Mondli Gungubele came to his rescue and defended him.
Ramaphosa is accused of concealing a crime at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo relating to the alleged theft of a large amount of money stolen from the game farm in February 2020.
Former spy boss Arthur Fraser has since laid a charge at Rosebank police station in Johannesburg accusing him of contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act after an undisclosed amount of foreign currency in the form of US dollars was removed from the farm.
Ramaphosa reportedly refused to step down, denying that there was any criminal case that would merit a finding against him, and arguing he had been a game farmer for years and all the transactions were legitimate.
According to the insiders, Ramaphosa revealed for the first time that about $480 000 (about R8.28 million) was stolen instead of the $4 million Fraser reported. He also said the money was tax-compliant, and that he had given the names of those who had bought the cattle to the authorities.
However, those who questioned him during the meeting wanted to know why he had not reported the matter to the authorities.
Recently, his predecessors broke with long-standing ANC tradition and publicly assaulted his presidency and leadership, in what appears to be a sign the tide may have turned against him.
Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki laid into Ramaphosa over a litany of issues, with the former accusing Ramaphosa of corruption, treason, and selling the constitution to “greedy friends”.
Political analyst and public administration lecturer at the University of Mpumalanga, Dr John Molepo, said most of the NEC members could not attack Ramaphosa because they were “scared” of him.
“Most of the NEC members are embroiled in issues of bread and butter, and they know that Ramaphosa still has state apparatus.
“As much as they can express themselves, they are too scared to push, because they would not know what Ramaphosa would do. They would obviously be pushed away by the president in terms of resources,” Molepo said.
Those who did not support Dlamini Zuma wanted to signal that her presidency might not succeed in December, he said.
Meanwhile, ANC veteran Carl Niehaus staged a picket outside Nasrec on the last day of the conference, holding a placard that read “Ramaphosa must go”.
Niehaus, who told Independent Media he had been receiving death threats since he called out Ramaphosa, said he hoped for the NEC to get Ramaphosa to step down.
“Anything less than the ANC NEC meeting deciding that Ramaphosa must step down would be inadequate.
“Ramaphosa has a serious prima facie case to answer,” Niehaus said.
In his closing remarks, Ramaphosa did not mention the Phala Phala matter or take questions from journalists.
Instead, he said the meeting was successful as the members had spoken on substantial matters that needed the attention of the party, paving the way for the elective conference.
He said: “We have resolved that substantive issues will be discussed at our conference in the coming weeks. A number of branches will continue discussions on these issues before the national conference takes place, including organisational renewal; constitutional amendments; the ANC’s strategies and technical and the programme of transformation.
“The national conference will be a moment of great significance to our country. It will affirm the ANC members’ commitment to renewal and to rebuild our organisation. We need to acknowledge our shortcomings and our failures as the NEC.”