President Cyril Ramaphosa can breathe a sigh of relief that his strategy of “attacking first” has paid off for now but he would step aside if criminal charges were made against him over his farm robbery case, the South African leader admitted.
He survived a heated debate of the National Executive Committee of the ruling African National Congress over the weekend on his Phala Phala farm case.
Voluntarily briefing the NEC – the party’s decision-making body -- his version of the events surrounding the robbery at his Phala Phala farm nearly three years ago, Ramaphosa said he would “gladly step aside” if he was criminally charged, according to presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya on Sunday.
Magwenya was responding to questions from journalists who asked him to comment on calls for Ramaphosa’s head, and for him to step aside following the alleged theft of millions of US dollars from the Limpopo farm in February 2020.
The spokesperson reminded the media that Ramaphosa had not been charged with any crime, and that there were various ongoing investigations into the matter.
“The constitutionally enshrined presumption of innocence until proven guilty remains. So I guess the question is best posed to those who have made the call for the president to step aside as to what informs these calls,” Magwenya said.
He added: “Should the President be charged, he will gladly step aside. But as things stand, there are no criminal charges against the president.”
“What you have is a series of investigations that he’s fully cooperating with, and he will continue to do so until those investigations are concluded,” he told the journalists.
He denies the allegations.
During the weekend NEC meeting held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, it was one of his senior ministers, Co-operative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who led the committee for Ramaphosa to step aside.
Dlamini Zuma is competing with Ramaphosa at the party’s national elective conference for the position of ANC leader in December.