By Gerald Imray

Prosecutors said Friday they are seeking extradition orders and the arrest of more suspects over the 2020 theft of around $580,000 in U.S. cash that was hidden in a couch at South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ranch.

The theft, which only became public in 2022, engulfed Ramaphosa in scandal and led to an investigation by financial authorities. He was cleared of wrongdoing, although he also faced an impeachment vote in Parliament over it. He survived the vote because of his ruling African National Congress party’s majority.

Ramaphosa was accused by political opponents of tax evasion and money laundering over the money hidden at his Phala Phala game ranch in the northern province of Limpopo. The fact that the cash was stashed in a couch raised questions over whether Ramaphosa had properly declared the foreign currency.

Ramaphosa said the money came from the sale of buffalos and denied any wrongdoing.

Two men and a woman have been arrested and charged with the theft. Prosecutor Nkhetheni Munyai said at a hearing Friday in the northern town of Bela-Bela that an extradition process had begun to bring other suspects to South Africa. He didn’t say how many suspects or where they would be extradited from.

Reports at the time of the scandal said suspects in the robbery had escaped to neighbouring Namibia.

The scandal badly damaged Ramaphosa’s image after he was largely elected in 2019 on a promise to clean up corruption in the ANC-led government. He reportedly nearly resigned over the matter.

Ramaphosa will seek a second and final five-year term in a national election on May 29, when the ANC is expected to face the sternest test in 30 years of governing Africa’s most advanced economy. Several polls have the ANC slipping below 50% of the vote for the first time in a national election, which would force it into a coalition to stay in government. –

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