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SA politics in turmoil as panel says President Ramaphosa must face impeachment

SA politics in turmoil as panel says President Ramaphosa must face impeachment
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has an impeachment case to answer over serious violations of the Constitution for exposing himself to a conflict of interest, doing outside paid work and contravening the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act, according to the Section 89 independent panel report.

 The carefully phrased 72-word recommendation at the end of the 82-page report came 10 hours after the official, ceremonial handover of the report to Parliament. 

Those findings will throw the ANC, already wracked by jockeying ahead of its Nasrec elective conference, into disarray — just at a time when Ramaphosa seemed secure as the frontrunner in the party’s presidential contest. 

It now remains to be seen how the ANC parliamentary caucus, which previously stepped up to defend its president, will respond. The Section 89 independent assessment panel report must be adopted by the House to come into force — and lead to the next step, the establishment of an impeachment committee.  

If the ANC decides to oppose this, it will blow up in an already tense political terrain and raise further questions about accountability, transparency and responsiveness in South Africa’s constitutional democracy. 

The Section 89 report raises questions over explanations over the source of the US dollars stolen from Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm, and how the theft was investigated — and finds: “There was a deliberate intention not to investigate the commission of the crimes committed at Phala Phala openly. 

“The request to the Namibian Police to ‘handle the matter with discretion’ confirms this intention. 

“The president abused his position as Head of State to have the matter investigated and seeking the assistance of the Namibian President to apprehend a suspect. 

“There was more foreign currency concealed in the sofa than the amount reflected in the acknowledgement of receipt. This raises the source of the additional currency.”  

At Wednesday morning’s ceremonial handover of the report, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said this marked “one of the indicative milestones in South Africa’s maturing constitutional democracy”. Hours later, the extent of that comment became clear when the actual panel report was released publicly. 

Ramaphosa ‘giving consideration to report’

The Presidency, in an almost immediate response, said in a statement that Ramaphosa was “giving consideration to the report and an announcement will be made in due course”. 

The Thursday morning briefing by presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya was cancelled, another Presidency statement added. 

The “enduring questions” remained the source of the stolen money, why the theft at the President’s home was not reported properly, or to any other police officer than the head of the presidential protection detail, and why the SAPS requested their Nambian counterparts to handle the matter “with discretion”. 

The findings came as earlier speculation mooted the African Transformation Movement (ATM) motion’s narrow focus on Section 96 of the Constitution that bans Cabinet members from paid outside work, or from situations that risk conflicts of interests. 

And that was effectively met by Ramaphosa explaining he had disclosed his business interests at Phala Phala, that the company is registered and tax compliant, and operations were left to farm managers, leaving him with no active participation. Neither does he earn an income from the farm. 

Those presidential responses arose from his statement to the Section 89 independent assessment panel leaked earlier on Wednesday in what clearly was an effort to control the news day’s narrative. 

While it’s definitely not the end of the political road for either Ramaphosa or the ANC, things have just become much, much more complicated. 

For the past six months, Ramaphosa’s CR22 campaign for a second term as ANC president has unfolded amid the Phala Phala saga. It began in early June when the former spy boss, Arthur Fraser, opened a case with police that $4-million had been stolen from sofa cushions at the president’s Phala Phala farm. 

Opposition parties are making political hay.  

Phala Phala was Ramaphosa’s Nkandla, said DA leader John Steenhuisen as the EFF promised renewed “Pay back the money” protests in reference to the controversy over taxpayer-funded upgrades at ex-president Jacob Zuma’s rural homestead. 

Throughout, Ramaphosa invoked “due process”, and when he did finally speak in Parliament in the late September Q&A slot, he said that the forex on the farm was not money laundering, but from the sale of animals

Meanwhile, the ANC in Parliament moved to protect the President by divorcing Ramaphosa the President from Ramaphosa the businessman, arguing Phala Phala was a separate business entity entirely. 

In June, the ATM submitted a motion in terms of Section 89 of the Constitution that allows the National Assembly to remove a president from office for a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct, or inability to perform the functions of office. 

The motion was rejected, but the ATM was allowed to resubmit a complaint motion in what’s the first step of the two-stage process of impeaching a president that was adopted in November 2018

The appointment of the independent panel to assess whether a case exists for Ramaphosa to be impeached took place after some wrangling over academic, author and commentator Richard Calland, who after dismissing claims of bias also withdrew to ensure the integrity of the process. 

That, and the panel’s report and recommendation, were the next steps. 

However, as Parliament owns this process, the National Assembly has to adopt the report. That is scheduled for 6 December and is set to be a raucous debate and vote. 

DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube has written to the Speaker to ask for voting to be done by roll call so that everyone’s name and vote is recorded, rather than the usual streamlined numerical indications of support or objection stated by the party chief whip. 

Given the huge public interest and the “precedent-setting nature of the  [panel’s] work”, it was imperative to cast votes manually in a roll call. 

“Parliament has been criticised heavily on several occasions in the past for failing in its constitutional duties of holding members of the executive accountable for the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions. We are elected to represent the interests of the public and to guard against the abuse of power and resources by the state and members of the Executive,” wrote Gwarube in a letter dated 30 November. 

Whether that will happen on the day remains to be seen. 

It’s the day the House rises for the end-of-year recess, and it’s almost a given that there will be a heated debate. 

But, on Wednesday night, South Africa’s constitutional democracy and its founding values of transparency, accountability and responsiveness were the true winners. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Errol Price says:

    South African have had their moral sensiblities bludgeoned to such an extent over the last 28 years of ANC misrule that many have convinced themselves that the seemingly- amiable crook now at the helm is eminently preferable to the grotesque thugs snapping at his heels.
    Unfortunately in the real world there is no such thing as benign gangterism.

    • Rob vZ says:

      Couldn’t agree more. We are suffering from some sort of 28-year Stockholm Syndrome, where the endless palace politics of thieves is debated as actual governance.

    • James Francis says:

      Yes, there is no benign gangsterism. But there is also no such thing as righteous inevitability. Of course the current president is eminently preferable. The alternatives are much worse and poised for far greater destruction. Do you honestly believe we’ll save SA by just doing the right thing? That naivete is exactly what the grotesque thugs exploit.

  • Andrew McWalter says:

    Not only chickens that come home to roost, but BEE’s too. If Cyril’s wealth had been “earned” in the current era, where Big Business’ payments for Political connections are seen for what they are, corrupt activities no less, Cyril would probably also be at home after having spent a few months in jail, now awaiting his 2nd court date for having skipped out of the penitentiary early.
    Cyril, Zuma, Cele, Abrahams, Fraser and the whole present crop of ANC parliamentarians are all of the same scurrilous ilk. They serve only rob us when their turn comes around, when opportunity meets the ethically-delinquent.

  • Christopher Lang says:

    A very suspicious and fishy incident indeed! Added to which, and never mentioned, is that there are so many instruments available to make business payments, that being paid in cash is tantamount to a fraudulent transaction, unless it is accompanied by a comprehensive account system. This is how money laundering works!
    The receiver of cash payments can either be a party to it or an enabler, but either way, it is a fraudulent practice unless appropriate records are kept. This alone makes CR complicit in this highly suspicious saga!

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    Have we completely lost it? Arthur Fraser, one of the biggest crooks of all, manages, in just a few months to get Ramaphosa impeached while the VBS, Zuma, Estina, Magashule etc etc have postponement after postponement? Who is going to take over Mashatile who is in bed with the EFF as they are ‘ideologically closer together’? His words not mine. Mantashe? The man who accuses de Ruyter of going after the crooks instead of fixing Eskom? Must be the most short-sighted and plain insane remark of the year? Ramaphosa remains the best of the worst, we have no-one else!

    • James Francis says:

      This, this a thousand times. We worry about some cash in a couch while SA burns. We’re doing the work of the RET faction for them.

    • virginia crawford says:

      The speed is rather amazing: corruption from the arms deal hasn’t even been dealt with, and along with scandals you mention. Where there’s a will there’s a way – but whose will?

    • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

      You have lost it yourself. We are very clear. Nobody sent or asked Cyril to do what he did but his perception of being above the law and that there is impunity. It does not matter who reported the matter or raised the matter in public what matters is that he has not denied the things that have been said. If Arthur Fraser has a case, you are fee to go to Rosebank Police Station and lay the necessary charges than tell us of drivel. Cyril has be found wanting by the panel and is also wanting on many fronts. He is no different to Jacob Zuma.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      Yes, you have a point in that we are busy losing it, morally speaking. But this has been going on for a long time now, especially if you look at what eNCA and SABC channels have been focusing on. I am also as frustrated as you are about how quickly action is taken against Ramaphosa while Zuma’s far more serious crimes have been dragging on for 20 years + ; this just shows how hopeless the ANC is as government. On the other hand, I don’t agree that Mashatile is on the side of the EFF; he may have made a few noises to support one or two things they said, but actually he is the best of all of the younger ANC leaders.

  • Tim Price says:

    I am relieved the panel did not attempt to white-wash the incident. The thing stank of abuse of power and exchange control and tax offences. No doubt it really grated the RET gangsters that Ramaphalaphala was always painted as Mr Clean by the press when they knew all too well that he was probably as bad as they were, so they’ll be feeling even more brazen and empowered after this. The thought of some RET scum bucket replacing this compromised marginally better scum bucket is horriffic but maybe its a chance for genuine change. We’re still entitled to wishful thinking I suppose.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    It is both incorrect and a lie that South African politics are in turmoil because of the findings of the panel. It is the ANC that is not in turmoil not the country because this country can live without Ramaphosa. His tenure in office has been a mixed bag of negligence and incompetence. He has failed to defend and protect the country during the riots of July last year. It was Mdumiseni Ntuli who went to Nkandla to ask Zuma to hand himself over after his application for recission failed so that he can avoid bloodshed and mayhem. This was leadership from Ntuli at the risk of his own life and position in the KZN PEC something that is absent in Ramaphosa. He has said that he is not bound by the Zondo Commission and worse, in the light of the unanimous decision by the apex court on Janus Walus parole, instead of defending the Constitutional Court, he has joined the populist thugs of the SACP and ANC and its progeny, the EFF. He has clearly shown to some amongst that he was complicit in state capture and we will not really miss him.
    He has no clue that a President is a constitutional being and what that means including being a Commander – in Chief. He can claim no ignorance when in actual fact he is the Commander of SAPS that crime is reported to SAPS Client Services not VIP Protection. The abuse of power of conducting an investigation using state resources makes him no different to a Jacob Zuma.
    A country must rely on institutions not individuals as they will disappoint you.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I still want to know what evidence there is of Ramaphosa himself being guilty of these accusations. After all the Independent Panel were apparently not allowed to get new evidence and had to work according to what was put before them; and most of the accusations came from highly unreliable sources. For instance, in this article it is said that the SAPS requested the Namibian government to handle the matter with discretion, not the President. Now the SAPS is accountable to the President, but it is still no proof that he ordered them to take that line. And the story of the money being hidden in a sofa, I repeat that I don’t believe that for one moment. According to me the only logical reason for such an independent panel to be constituted can be to find the real facts of the matter, because politicians are not known for their commitment to facts; they usually only commit themselves to narratives which half of the time are based on a lot of lies. That is not what happened here. About the only good thing about this news is, as the Speaker said, that this shows our democracy is maturing.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    We must wait for parliament not the ANC NEC. The report is before its owner and the decision it takes is either to adopt the report and set up a Section 89 Committee that will ensure that the witnesses are called including the Reserve Bank, the SAPS, Zizi Kodwa and other Ministers said to be involved in the cover up and the thief who is in custody and Ramaphosa would be cross examined on his version as well as Fraser. The other option is the Mantashe option of defending the President and rubbishing the former Chief Justice as Mantashe has begun his usual trade of insults. The public is watching and listening and
    will speak through the ballot. Calland and Mantashe will not be able to remove the stigma from Ramaphosa no matter how they spin things. The country has never fallen because an ANC President has resigned. That the ANC has horrible alternatives was not the business of the panel and not the business of the country. The country will speak volumes in 2024.

  • Rob Millar says:

    JZ, Ace, Julius, Koko, Mkhize, et al ALL implicated in plundering state funds and depriving the poor of a better existence. Did Cyril steal anything from the poor? Did his action deprive any constituents from a better future? NO! Let’s decide who lost out? We will if he goes! Get real people.

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