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Ramaphosa’s allies rally behind him as party meets on his fate

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies closed ranks behind him as the governing party’s top leaders prepared to discuss his fate over an independent panel’s findings that there may be grounds for his impeachment. The rand rallied and government bond yields fell.

Key supporters met on Thursday night to hammer out a plan to keep Ramaphosa from resigning over the panel’s findings in its probe of a robbery at his game farm in which the president said $580 000 hidden in a sofa was stolen. Despite the findings that Ramaphosa had a case to answer, there was no indication that he abused public funds, which should count in his favour, according to two of those who attended the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorised to comment.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said on Friday that there was a 10% chance of Ramaphosa leaving office. Those comments came after Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, the chairman of the governing African National Congress, said it would be premature for Ramaphosa to resign.

“He is more popular than the party,” Godongwana said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “My prayer for now is that he remains.”

The rand surged as much as 1.8% after Godongwana spoke, and traded 1.7% stronger at 17.36 per dollar by 11:54 a.m. In Johannesburg. It’s wiped out more than half of its decline following publication of the panel’s report on Wednesday. Government bonds also rallied, with the benchmark 10-year yield dropping 34 basis points to 11.20%.

Investor concern that Ramaphosa might step down over the scandal triggered the rand’s worst one-day loss since May and the biggest selloff of government bonds since 2015 on Thursday.

Dozens of African National Congress officials who sit on the party’s National Executive Committee are scheduled to begin meeting at 2 pm on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Their discussions are expected to continue into the weekend and the outcome of their deliberations may only be announced on Sunday evening.

Under the constitution, Ramaphosa’s deputy, David Mabuza, would be first in line to succeed him should he vacate his post. That eventuality has also galvanised the incumbent’s backers because Mabuza isn’t an acceptable alternative to any of the ANC’s main factions, said the people who attended Thursday night’s meeting. Ramaphosa’s detractors also haven’t come up with another feasible candidate to field as ANC leader when the party holds internal elections later this month, they said.

The president has been engaging a broad range of people on what steps he should take, his spokesman Vincent Magwenya said in a televised briefing on Thursday. Any decision Ramaphosa takes will be in the best interests of the country and won’t be rushed, he said.

“All options are on the table,” Magwenya said. “He is not panicking, that I can assure you.”

© 2022 Bloomberg


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