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Ramaphosa farm scandal probe could take two years: S.African watchdog

#Ramaphosa #farm #scandal #probe #years #S.African #watchdog

Investigations by South Africa’s ombudswoman into a scandal involving a 2020 burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farmhouse that allegedly found a haul of dollar bills stashed inside furniture could take at least two years, she said Friday.

The scandal erupted in June after a former national spy boss filed a police complaint, alleging that Ramaphosa concealed some four million dollars in cash and arranged for the burglars to be kidnapped and questioned, and then bribed them into silence.

“Ours is not a political calendar,” but “we would like to finalise our investigation before two years,” said interim ombudswoman Kholeka Gcaleka, whose office is known as the Public Protector.

“We must trace leads, involving multiple state organs, we cannot take any shortcuts. It needs to be a legally sound report to stand the test of scrutiny,” she said at a news conference organised for foreign correspondents.

Her office, along with the police, is probing a case which has raised accusations of money-laundering and corruption by the 69-year-old president.

Initially the watchdog sent 31 questions to Ramaphosa, giving him two weeks to respond. 

“He asked for an extension, I granted this in view of the magnitude and complexity of the investigation,” said the 41-year-old ombudswoman.

Two investigators in her office are dedicated full-time on the probe, she said. 

The public protector’s office is an independent state institution provided for in the constitution.

It investigates and reports on “any misconduct or malfeasance within the government with no fear, no favour or prejudice,” said Gcaleka.

The farm saga has brewed into one of the biggest storms in Ramaphosa’s career.

The former trade union leader and business tycoon rose to the presidency in 2018, benefiting from a graft-free image after the corruption-stained era of his former boss, Jacob Zuma.

He is expected to seek re-election as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) at a crunch conference at the end of the year.

A special parliamentary committee last week started investigations as to whether the scandal renders Ramaphosa liable for impeachment. 

He has acknowledged that a burglary took place but denies kidnapping and bribery. 

He has also disputed the amount of money involved and said the cash came from legitimate sales of game from his animal-breeding farm.

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