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South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at 10 Downing Street to meet Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in London on Nov. 23.Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing intense pressure to resign in the interests of national stability after a scathing report by a parliamentary inquiry threatened to leave him struggling with legal and political battles over corruption allegations for months to come.

Mr. Ramaphosa’s announcement of his decision is “imminent,” according to a presidential spokesperson on Thursday, and local media said he is “very likely” to resign. But his expected speech to the nation was postponed until Friday at the earliest, while the ruling African National Congress called an emergency meeting of its top leadership for Friday morning to discuss the options.

The inquiry found preliminary evidence that Mr. Ramaphosa, one of the wealthiest people in South Africa, may have violated anti-corruption laws and the constitution itself when he received at least US$580,000 in cash from a mysterious Sudanese businessman and later failed to report the theft of the cash to the police. He said the money was payment for the sale of 20 buffalo from his wildlife ranch in 2019, but failed to explain why the businessman has never returned to collect the animals.

The South African currency, the rand, swiftly eroded on exchange markets as the country faced a new round of political chaos that could continue for months, at a time when it is already enduring persistent electricity blackouts, high unemployment and rising crime.

Mr. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, told journalists that the President is consulting widely and “all options are on the table.” But in a sign of the severity of the crisis, Mr. Ramaphosa cancelled all of his official engagements as he wrestled with his decision.

Mr. Ramaphosa became president in 2018, proclaiming a “new dawn” after the forced resignation of former president Jacob Zuma, who was embroiled in multiple corruption scandals. Since then, he has pushed for anti-corruption inquiries and prosecutions, establishing the principle that ANC officials must “step aside” if they are charged with corruption.

The irony is that he himself could now be obliged to resign for the same principles. His opponents in the Zuma camp, including a former state intelligence director who revealed the stolen cash, appear to have caught him in a trap of his own making.

Less than 10 days ago, Mr. Ramaphosa seemed to be heading for an easy re-election victory at the ANC leadership conference that begins on Dec. 16. He was far ahead of his only rival in the race, gathering the largest number of nominations from ANC branches and positioning himself for another win in the next national election in 2024.

But the unexpectedly damning report of the parliamentary inquiry, headed by a former chief justice and two other legal experts, has cast doubt on his political survival. If he clings to power, he will need to fend off an internal ANC challenge, a possible criminal case, two official investigations of tax and foreign currency issues in relation to the stolen cash, and an expected parliamentary impeachment vote.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, none of South Africa’s presidents has managed to serve a full two terms in office. After the retirement of the first president, Nelson Mandela, in 1999, each president has been forced to step down early, largely because of corruption scandals or factional feuding within the ANC, and Mr. Ramaphosa could be the next to do so.

The latest scandal will derail Mr. Ramaphosa’s economic reform ambitions, while also inflicting damage on the ANC itself, since Mr. Ramaphosa’s personal popularity has boosted the ANC’s electoral chances in the past. His approval rating has always run ahead of the party itself. His demise, if it happens, would increase the chance that the ANC will lose power in the 2024 election or be forced into coalition negotiations with opposition parties.

All of his potential successors have been tainted with their own corruption allegations. The deputy president, David Mabuza, could serve as interim president if Mr. Ramaphosa steps down, but his lack of popularity has meant that he failed to gain enough nominations to qualify as a candidate for a leadership post at the ANC conference this month. He has also faced accusations of involvement in political killings and other crimes in his home province, and has been criticized for frequent mysterious trips to Russia, where he says he is receiving undisclosed medical treatment.

Mr. Ramaphosa’s main opponent at the leadership conference is the former health minister, Zweli Mkhize. He resigned from cabinet after revelations that family members and associates had benefited from a health department contract during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Ramaphosa’s most likely successor is Paul Mashatile, a former cabinet minister and former head of the ANC in Gauteng province, the industrial heartland of the country. He is currently serving as the ANC’s treasurer and acting secretary-general, and gained the largest number of branch nominations for the contest for deputy president at the ANC conference. He, too, has been accused of corruption in the handling of government contracts, including a massive urban renewal project in Alexandra township in Johannesburg where money allegedly went missing.

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