/ 12 December 2022

Ramaphosa Phala Phala scandal fuels resentment in Soweto

Cyril Ramaphosa Gcis2
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

In Soweto, where President Cyril Ramaphosa grew up — and where he visited last year promising better days — nothing has changed for Solomzi Dzanzbe.

Another Sunday passes and he still has no work.

Ramaphosa “told us he’s going to fix the electricity but there’s no change”, the 24-year-old said, before taking a large sip of beer.

When Ramaphosa visited Nomzamo Park in Soweto in 2021, he promised to improve conditions in the tough neighbourhood on the edge of Johannesburg.

Visiting before local elections, Ramaphosa saw the candles in houses that had had no electricity for three years. He saw the empty fridges and the children’s legs with cuts that would not heal because of the dirty water.

He made many promises but for some local people, they were just words.

“As always, ANC people, they talk and they don’t do anything,” said Dzanzbe.

He planned to spend the rest of the day drinking beer with other young people.

It is against this backdrop of unkept promises and a growing frustration with the ANC that Ramaphosa faces the worst scandal of his career, one that could yet bring him down.

The claims of more than half a million dollars stashed beneath sofa cushions in Ramaphosa’s home have fuelled resentment in Soweto and elsewhere.

He is accused of concealing the theft of this from his game farm in 2020.

Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing, saying the cash was payment for buffaloes bought by a Sudanese businessman.

But a parliament-sanctioned independent panel said last month that he “may have committed” serious violations and misconduct.

“Why didn’t he change the money?” Dzanzbe wanted to know. “And how did the money first come into the country?”

He could no longer vote for the ANC, he said.

Parliament will decide on Tuesday whether to hold a vote in the future on the president’s impeachment, which in South Africa means removal from office.

That parliamentary vote will be just days before the ANC starts its conference to elect a new party leader, which Ramaphosa hopes to win ahead of 2024 general elections.

In Nomzamo Park, the ANC has always won, its vote sometimes exceeding 80%.

But in last year’s local government election, voters turned away from the party. The ANC only won 46% of the vote in the area, compared with 67% in previous local elections.

And the same picture has emerged at the national level. For the first time in its history, the ANC last year won less than 50% of the vote.

For Sucre Dlamini, 24, the Phala Phala matter is further proof that the ANC “can’t survive”.

Ramaphosa “must go”, he said. Although a criminal investigation is ongoing and the president has not been charged, Dlamini believes “if there is smoke, there is fire”.

“It’s clearly an abuse of power. I have no house, no car and I’m making just enough to pay for the bills. What did he do for us, Ramaphosa?” — AFP