South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing in a preliminary report into a cover-up scandal that has tarnished his reputation, according to local media reports.
The Public Protector said it has notified implicated parties of the preliminary findings of its probe over the theft of large amounts of cash from Ramaphosa’s luxury Phala Phala farm – something the president is accused of having attempted to conceal.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said on Saturday the president received the report, details of which have been leaked to local media.
“As stated before, we reiterate that the president did not participate in any wrongdoing, nor did he violate the oath of his office,” Magwenya said according to South African news outlet News24. “Instead, the president was a victim of a crime that he duly reported to the relevant authorities.”
The scandal, which erupted in June, involved about $500,000 in cash that Ramaphosa acknowledged were stolen from beneath sofa cushions at his ranch.
The president, who said the money was payment for buffalos bought by a Sudanese businessman, was accused of failing to report the matter to the police, as well as abusing his powers and exposing himself to a conflict of interest over the affair.
The report exonerates him but found the head of the presidential protection unit to whom Ramaphosa reported the crime acted improperly, investigating the case directly instead of reporting it to the police, according to extracts published by several media outlets.
The findings, which the left-wing opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party described as “nonsensical”, will bring some respite to Ramaphosa, who has been dogged by the allegations for months.
The scandal almost cost him his job in December when he narrowly escaped a parliamentary vote that could have initiated proceedings to remove him from office and has endangered his chances of securing a second term after next year’s elections.
Yet, it will not be the end of the matter for the president.
A police investigation is still ongoing, with the head of an elite unit who said earlier this week detectives have collected more than 120 statements as part of their probe into the affair.