JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -Senior officials in South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) were gathering on Friday to decide whether President Cyril Ramaphosa should stay on after an inquiry found evidence of misconduct over cash hidden at his farm.
The president's future has been in doubt since a report by a panel of experts was made public on Wednesday. The inquiry was investigating the alleged theft of millions of dollars of cash stuffed into furniture in the millionaire president's Phala game farm in 2020.
The theft, which only came to light in June, has raised awkward questions about how Ramaphosa acquired the money, why he wasn't keeping it in a bank and whether or not it had been declared to authorities - uncomfortable for a leader who came to power in 2017 on a promise to fight endemic graft.
Ramaphosa has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime. The president has said the money was much less than the $4 million to $8 million reported, and that it was the proceeds of game sales at the farm.
The media has dubbed the affair "Farmgate".
More than 80 officials from the ANC's most senior entity, the National Executive Committee (NEC), were meeting at the party's headquarters in Nasrec, a suburb of Johannesburg, from late morning, the ANC announced.
ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe, in an interview with local television station Newzroom Afrika on Friday, denied that Ramaphosa was considering resigning.
Mantashe said Ramaphosa was giving space for the report to be interrogated and tested.
"My own view is that it would be premature for the president to just step down without a due process," said Mantashe, a powerful political figure who also serves as energy and mines minister in Ramaphosa's cabinet.
The South African rand stabilised on Friday, after closing 2% weaker against the dollar on Thursday on speculation that Ramaphosa was going to resign.
Local media reported widely that he was considering quitting on Thursday but was then convinced by his own supporters within the NEC to stay.
"We are quite determined that the president has to stay," Mathole Motshekga, an NEC member, told local Radio 786. "We really believe that this matter should not even go as far as an impeachment process."
Two ministers in Ramaphosa's cabinet, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former president Jacob Zuma's ex-wife who narrowly lost the ANC's 2017 leadership contest to Ramaphosa, and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who has campaigned to be elected ANC leader this month, have called on the president to step down.
(Reporting by Kopano Gumbi, Tim Cocks, Alexander Winning and Wendell Roelf; editing by James Macharia Chege and Mark Heinrich)