Ramaphosa Phala Phala Scandal Fuels Resentment In Soweto

In the township of Soweto, where South Africa’s 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, and no money.

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

In front of the cameras, he made many promises — but for some local people, they were just words.

“As always, ANC (Ramaphosa’s ruling party) people, they talk and they don’t do anything,” said Dzanzbe.

In flip-flops and a bucket hat, he planned to spend the rest of the day finishing a bunch of two-litre beer bottles with other young people.

It is against this backdrop of anger over unkept promises and a growing frustration with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that Ramaphosa faces the worst scandal of his career — one that could yet bring him down.

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

– Critical report –
The 70-year-old president is accused of concealing a huge cash theft from his game and rare cattle 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 after the affair, he said.

South Africa’s 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.

Tuesday’s parliamentary vote will be just days before the ANC holds an election for 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 percent.

– Ramaphosa ‘must go’ –
Soweto is a historic stronghold of the anti-Apartheid party.

But in last year’s local election, voters in Nomzamo Park turned away from the party that has dominated the country for the past 30 years.

The ANC only won 46 percent of the vote in the area compared with 67 percent in previous local elections.

And the same picture has emerged on the national level for the party of Nelson Mandela. For the first time in its history, the ANC last year won less than 50 percent of the vote.

For Sucre Dlamini, 24, the scandal 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 at this stage, 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?”