(Bloomberg) -- South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies closed ranks behind him as the governing party’s top leaders consider how to respond to an independent panel’s findings that there may be grounds for his impeachment. The rand rallied and government bond yields fell.
Key supporters met on Thursday night to hammer out a plan to keep Ramaphosa from resigning over his handling of a robbery at his game farm in which the president said $580,000 hidden in a sofa was stolen. Despite the panel’s findings that Ramaphosa may be guilty of serious misconduct and had a case to answer, there was no indication that he abused public funds, which should count in his favor, according to two of those who attended the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to comment.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said on Friday that there was a 10% chance of Ramaphosa leaving office. Those comments came after Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, the chairman of the governing African National Congress, said it would be premature for Ramaphosa to resign.
“He is more popular than the party,” Godongwana said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “My prayer for now is that he remains.”
The rand surged as much as 2.2% after Godongwana spoke, and traded 0.9% stronger at 17.4957 per dollar by 5:32 p.m. in Johannesburg. Government bonds also rallied, with the benchmark 10-year yield dropping 23 basis points to 11.31%.
Investor concern that Ramaphosa might step down over the scandal triggered the rand’s worst one-day loss since May and the biggest selloff of government bonds since 2015 on Thursday.
One reason Ramaphosa changed his mind about resigning immediately was because of advice from his lawyers, according to three of the people. The president’s legal team is confident parts of the report can be successfully challenged, they said.
Officials who sit on the ANC’s National Executive Committee adjourned a meeting on Friday after former President Thabo Mbeki raised objections to Ramaphosa’s absence, according to two people who attended the gathering and declined to be identified as they’re not authorized to comment. The panel’s discussions are expected to continue on Sunday.
ANC Treasurer-General Paul Mashatile told the meeting that Ramaphosa plans to take the panel’s report on legal review, the people said.
Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, referred a request for comment to ANC spokesman Pule Mabe, who didn’t immediately respond to questions sent by text message.
Under the constitution, Ramaphosa’s deputy, David Mabuza, would be first in line to succeed him should he vacate his post. That eventuality has also galvanized the incumbent’s backers because Mabuza isn’t an acceptable alternative to any of the ANC’s main factions, said the people who attended Thursday night’s meeting. Ramaphosa’s detractors also haven’t come up with another feasible candidate to field as ANC leader when the party holds internal elections later this month, they said.
The president has been engaging a broad range of people on what steps he should take, Magwenya said in a televised briefing on Thursday. Any decision Ramaphosa takes will be in the best interests of the country and won’t be rushed, he said.
“All options are on the table,” Magwenya said. “He is not panicking, that I can assure you.”
--With assistance from Robert Brand, Francine Lacqua and Colleen Goko.
(Updates with meeting of ANC’s top leadership in eighth paragraph.)
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