South African lawmakers will decide Tuesday whether to institute impeachment proceedings against President Cyril Ramaphosa, three days before the governing party meets to consider re-electing him as its leader.
Ramaphosa’s political future was cast into doubt on November 30, when an independent panel found he may have violated the constitution because of the way he handled the theft of at least $580,000 that had been stashed in a sofa at his game farm.
The 400-member National Assembly will vote on whether to adopt the findings. If it does, legislators will establish a panel to look into whether there are grounds for his dismissal.
The African National Congress has instructed its 230 legislators to quash the report, but some within the party oppose Ramaphosa and may vote alongside opposition parties – most of which have said they favour its adoption.
An open ballot will serve as a deterrent to those considering breaking ranks.
While the report requires a simple majority to pass, impeaching the president would require the backing two-thirds of lawmakers.
Ramaphosa is widely expected to win a second term as ANC leader at its December 16-20 national conference after receiving the most nominations for the post, and his status as the front-runner would be re-enhanced should lawmakers reject the report.
The party has held power since the racist system of apartheid ended in 1994, and whoever is chosen as its leader will also be its presidential candidate in a 2024 general election.
The 70-year-old president, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, appeared nonplussed about the impending parliamentary vote and potential consequences while attending an ANC event in Cape Town at the weekend.
“There’s not much to it,” he told reporters. “Relax. There’s no issue, there’s no crisis.”
Tuesday’s sitting will be held in Cape Town’s City Hall because the National Assembly chambers were gutted by a fire in January and have yet to be repaired.
A debate on the report is scheduled to begin at 10 am local time and will be voted on at 2 pm, with the count likely to take several hours.