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South Africa’s Ramaphosa denies wrongdoing in farming scandal

The president was responding to a parliamentary panel set up to investigate the theft of $4 million in cash from his game farm.

South Africa’s president has denied wrongdoing in his testimony before a parliamentary panel examining whether he should face impeachment over an alleged cover-up of a robbery at his country home, his office said.

In written responses provided to the independent panel on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa “categorically denies that he has violated this oath in any way and denies that he is guilty of any of the allegations against him,” the presidency said Monday.

The scandal erupted in June after South Africa’s former national intelligence chief filed a complaint with police alleging that thieves broke into Phala Phala, the president’s farm in the north-east of the country, and stole $4 million in cash hidden in the furniture.

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The complaint alleged that Ramaphosa concealed the robbery from authorities and instead arranged for the robbers to be kidnapped and bribed to keep quiet.

The scandal risks derailing Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as president of the African National Congress (ANC) as the ruling party heads to hotly contested internal elections in December.

Ramaphosa’s office said he has always striven to “uphold his oath of office and set an example in his respect for the constitution.”

The independent panel, which was appointed by the president of the National Assembly last month, includes a former chief justice of the Supreme Court, a former high-ranking justice of the Supreme Court and a lawyer.

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It was established after a motion tabled by a lawmaker from the African Movement for Transformation, one of the country’s opposition parties, and is due to report its findings in mid-November.

Impeaching a president requires a two-thirds majority vote in South Africa’s National Assembly, where Ramaphosa’s ANC controls more than two-thirds of the seats. But in June, opposition lawmakers heckled him in parliament.

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