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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa finds out this week if he faces impeachment

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa will find out in coming days if he will face an impeachment hearing. An independent panel commissioned by Parliament issued a report last week that said Ramaphosa may have broken anti-corruption laws by allegedly covering up the theft of a large amount of cash that was stuffed into a sofa at his farm. His party, the ruling African National Congress, will block any efforts to impeach Ramaphosa. Kate Bartlett reports from Johannesburg.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in non-English language).

KATE BARTLETT: MPs from the ruling African National Congress celebrating the moment Cyril Ramaphosa was formally declared president of South Africa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in non-English language).

BARTLETT: After nine years of the corruption scandals of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa pledged to fight graft and return South Africa to the original vision of Nelson Mandela.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA: We are continuing the long walk he began.

BARTLETT: But last week, it looked like the political career of the man who was once widely seen as Mandela's protege was over. Although he has denied any wrongdoing, an investigation alleged the president broke a number of laws involving the presence and subsequent theft of a disputed amount of money.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NELSON MANDELA: I wish to take this opportunity to commend my comrade and colleague Cyril Ramaphosa for the important contribution he has made in building our organization, the ANC.

BARTLETT: This was Nelson Mandela speaking about Ramaphosa in 1996. Ramaphosa helped draft South Africa's progressive post-apartheid constitution and was hand-picked by Mandela as a possible successor. But he decided to leave politics and became one of South Africa's wealthiest businessmen. When he returned to politics, the fight against corruption was at the heart of his pledge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAMAPHOSA: We are determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources, nor the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people.

BARTLETT: The timing for Ramaphosa couldn't be worse. In less than a week, the highly factionalized ANC holds its party leadership vote, and whoever wins that inevitably becomes the country's president, should the ANC win the next general election in 2024.

ASANDA NGOASHENG: I think that it is really definitely the other camp trying to make sure that by the time they get to the ballot, as the ANC, he's tainted or as tainted as the other candidates.

BARTLETT: Political analyst Asanda Ngoasheng.

NGOASHENG: It's about factionalism in the ANC. It's not about whether South Africa deserves a clean governance or not, which I think South Africa does.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing in non-English language).

BARTLETT: On the streets of Soweto, once the center of the anti-apartheid movement, feelings regarding the ANC are mixed, with many disillusioned. Freddy Mdiglana says he remembers protesting against the apartheid regime as a young man. But with the country in economic freefall, there are few good leaders to choose from.

FREDDY MDIGLANA: He must not resign because if he is going to resign, then there will be no more ANC in 2024.

BARTLETT: Will you vote for the ANC again in 2024?

MDIGLANA: Oh, mama. I'm so very sorry, mama. Not this time around, mama. They have failed me, mama.

BARTLETT: And many South Africans feel the same.

Kate Bartlett for NPR News, Johannesburg. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kate Bartlett

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