South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has been exonerated of all charges related to a high-profile burglary scandal that nearly jeopardized his position as head of state. The country’s ombudswoman, Kholeka Gcaleka, announced on Friday that the President has been found not guilty of misconduct and betraying the honor of his office.
The scandal first came to light in June 2022 when the former head of intelligence lodged a complaint, accusing President Ramaphosa of concealing the theft of a significant amount of cash in 2020. It was alleged that burglars had discovered bundles of dollars hidden beneath the cushions of a sofa at one of the President’s properties. Additionally, the complaint accused Ramaphosa of silencing the burglars in exchange for their silence, sparking concerns of money laundering and corruption.
Prompted by the complaint, both the police and the Office of the Public Protector initiated investigations. However, the recent findings from the Ombudsman have vindicated President Ramaphosa. Kholeka Gcaleka, also known as the Public Protector, stated that the President’s actions did not violate the Constitution or the executive’s code of ethics. Speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, Gcaleka affirmed, “There is no basis for concluding that the President has breached the relevant provisions of the law, including during the period following the alleged theft of dollars.”
The Office of the Public Protector, an independent institution established in the Constitution, is responsible for investigating and reporting any misconduct or wrongdoing within the government. However, it lacks the authority to initiate prosecutions. Nevertheless, Gcaleka’s clearance of the President carries significant weight and helps restore faith in Ramaphosa’s integrity.
Throughout the investigation, Ramaphosa steadfastly maintained his innocence, asserting that the $580,000 in cash originated from the sale of buffalo from his farm. Last year, a parliamentary committee acknowledged that the President may have committed “violations and faults” in relation to the affair. However, Parliament ultimately decided against pursuing impeachment proceedings, which could have forced Ramaphosa to step down from his position.
Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader who achieved business success after apartheid, assumed the presidency in 2018, vowing to bring about a “new dawn” following the scandal-plagued tenure of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. Despite the challenges posed by this burglary scandal, Ramaphosa’s exoneration offers him an opportunity to refocus on his mission of leading South Africa forward.