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South Africa's president is facing calls for his resignation

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

South Africa's president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is clinging to his political life and the party of Nelson Mandela, the ruling African National Congress, in a crisis mode. Ramaphosa is facing calls to resign and possible impeachment proceedings after an independent panel appointed by parliament alleged that he broke anti-corruption laws and violated the constitution.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

How he got here is a very convoluted story. It involves the allegations of a former spy, tales of a sofa stuffed with cash and the failure to declare the existence and subsequent theft of potentially millions of dollars. To unravel this tale, we are joined by Kate Bartlett in Johannesburg. Hey, Kate.

KATE BARTLETT: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: OK. So one of the headlines in a South African newspaper this morning says the following, the end of a presidency. How did we get here?

BARTLETT: Well, we'll see whether it's the end of a presidency very soon. Yesterday, it was reported Ramaphosa was willing and planning to resign. Today, he's apparently been convinced by his allies in the ANC to stay on and fight. This is a developing story and moving fast. A little bit of background about Ramaphosa. He was elected in 2018 on an anti-corruption platform after nine turbulent years of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, who was dogged by corruption allegations and scandal after scandal.

And, you know, many South Africans were delighted when Ramaphosa replaced Zuma, as he was seen to be clean. And he spoke of a new dawn. But since then, critics say he's been slow to act against the rot in his party. Though, to give him due credit, in recent months, there have been arrests and court cases involving high-level people fingered in corruption cases. But now this scandal over a large, undisclosed amount of cash inexplicably found stuffed in his sofa...

MARTIN: Oh, so it's his sofa that's stuffed with the cash?

BARTLETT: It was his sofa at his game farm. Yes.

MARTIN: And so what's the story of that?

BARTLETT: Yeah. So basically, there was a robbery in 2020. And the robbers took an undisclosed amount of cash - could be millions; it's all very murky, the details - from the sofa. But we only found out about this two years later, a few months ago, when the country's former spy chief went and told the police about it. Now, the president, who is a keen breeder of prize buffalo, says the cash is from a sale of one of his animals. And he denies any wrongdoing.

MARTIN: Wow. So just walk us through what we expect to happen in the next few days.

BARTLETT: Well, if Ramaphosa doesn't resign on his own accord over the next few days, there'll be a debate in parliament next Tuesday, during which legislatures could vote for his impeachment. Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic alliance is calling for early elections. Elections were slated for 2024. They want to bring them forward. And, you know, this comes at a crucial time because Ramaphosa is facing a leadership race in his own party in two weeks' time where he was clearly the main contender. But this scandal has thrown all of that into doubt now. You know, his party, the ANC, is riven by factionalism. And there have been knives out for him for years.

MARTIN: Kate Bartlett in Johannesburg. We appreciate you. Thank you so much, Kate.

BARTLETT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Kate Bartlett