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S.Africa anti-graft watchdog to subpoena Ramaphosa over theft at his farm

FILE PHOTO: South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives for working session during so-called outreach summit at the G7 leaders' summit at the Bavarian resort of Schloss Elmau castle, near Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, June 27, 2022. REUTERS/Lukas Barth/File Photo

South Africa's top anti-corruption watchdog will subpoena President Cyril Ramaphosa to answer questions over allegations of criminal wrongdoing related to a break-in at his farm, the Public Protector's office said on Tuesday.

The Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated anti-graft office, said in a statement it had given Ramaphosa until Monday July 18 to respond to its questions in an investigation on whether Ramaphosa had violated the Executive Ethics Code.

Ramaphosa did not provide answers but instead requested a further extension, which the watchdog denied, the statement from the office of Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka added.

The subpoena was prompted after Arthur Fraser, a former director-general of the State Security Agency under Ramaphosa's predecessor Jacob Zuma, last month asked police to investigate Ramaphosa's conduct for alleged money laundering and corruption linked to millions of dollars allegedly stolen during a robbery at the president's farm in 2020.

A complaint by the small opposition African Transformation Movement party was also lodged in June asking the public protector to investigate whether Ramaphosa had violated the ethics code.

Fraser said in his complaint to the police in June that the amount was estimated at between $4 million to $8 million.

Ramaphosa has not been formally charged with any crime.

He has previously said police should be allowed to investigate him over the allegations.

"The president's legal team is in communication with the office of the Public Protector," Ramaphosa spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told Reuters, in response to the watchdog's statement.

While Ramaphosa has confirmed that a robbery occurred at his farm in 2020, in which he said proceeds from the sale of game were stolen, he denied claims of criminal conduct.

Opposition political parties say the incident has damaged the credibility of a president who has staked his reputation as an anti-corruption fighter.

The country's main opposition Democratic Alliance party said it welcomed the watchdog's decision to subpoena Ramaphosa.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia Chege and Aurora Ellis)

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