Phala Phala down: ANC foils parliamentary probe into Ramaphosa scandal despite united opposition
Wednesday was not the day the National Assembly came down in favour of a parliamentary probe into the stolen forex saga at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm, as DA leader John Steenhuisen, backed by seven other opposition parties, had requested.
With a vote of 204 against and 135 for, the ANC used its numbers in the House to defeat a motion for a special parliamentary investigation into the Phala Phala farm forex saga, “in line with its constitutional obligations to maintain oversight of and to ensure that all organs of state are accountable to it”, as the Order Paper put it, also regarding the role of several departments and entities, from the SA Police Service to the State Security Agency.
“An innocent man should never be afraid of the truth. And an innocent president should never be afraid of Parliament,” DA leader John Steenhuisen had said in urging all MPs to support the proposed multiparty ad hoc committee.
Referencing the scathing findings over tepid parliamentary oversight made in the State Capture commission report, he said Parliament was again at a crossroads after assurances that never again would the national legislature be disempowered.
“And yet, here we are again. What has really changed? Then it was Nkandla. Now it’s Phala Phala. Then it was fire pools and cattle kraals. Now it’s couches stuffed with dollars. Then it was President Jacob Zuma. Now it’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“But it is the exact same [ANC] modus operandi: as long as you have the numbers in Parliament, you can make any scandal go away.”
In the declarations — a time-limited statement from each represented political party, rather than a debate — only the Good party, National Freedom Party and Al Jama-ah opposed the ad hoc committee with the ANC.
“The ANC is convinced that the proposed ad hoc committee is an attempt to launch a reactionary coup intended to hijack democratic institutions and processes to satisfy the narrow political interests of racist, right-wing parties,” said ANC MP Khaya Magaxa, the public enterprises committee chairperson.
Describing the resolution as “opportunistic”, “combative” and “fact-bending”, he said it “has a hidden predetermined conclusion that the President is guilty”. He said it clashed with various processes still under way. “It gives the impression the National Assembly is willing to interfere…” to cause confusion.
The tone seems to channel the regime change and opposition coup d’etat talk from senior ANC officials and leaders that infused the August 2017 secret ballot no-confidence motion against then president Jacob Zuma. Arguments of non-interference in pending processes were also raised to kick-to-touch calls for State Capture parliamentary probes — at least until mid-2017 — as testimony before the Zondo commissioner showed.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Parliament between the cracks of political will and constitutional duties – must do better
Earlier declarations had called on the ANC to support the ad hoc committee into the broader role of various departments in the saga of sofa cushions stuffed with dollars on the President’s farm.
“If you believe in the innocence of your [party] president… you would have supported an investigation to clear his name. Why don’t you want that?” asked Freedom Front Plus MP Wouter Wessels.
IFP MP Mzamo Buthelezi said people were becoming increasingly resentful. “It’s important we allay any and all fears of South Africans, who believe the rule of law is trampled on,” said Buthelezi.
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said only transparency in the Phala Phala matter would finally settle it.
“Allegations of a cover-up have been greatly destructive to confidence at home and abroad… It is in the interest of the President, and I dare say, the ruling party, this case must be expedited… Unfortunately, the President can’t run away from Parliament.”
It took some parliamentary political wrangling to get the motion on Wednesday’s Order Paper. The ANC in Parliament had argued the opposition couldn’t just double-dip after the governing party’s numbers in the House defeated an earlier motion for such an ad hoc committee in late September 2022.
Read more in Daily Maverick: The Phala Phala forex theft — it’s not the President, it’s his business, says ANC
On 13 December 2022, ANC numbers in the House ensured the Section 89 panel recommendation for an impeachment inquiry against President Ramaphosa also was defeated, just days before the ANC’s Nasrec conference re-elected him for a second term as party president ahead of the 2024 national and provincial elections.
Wednesday’s DA parliamentary push for a parliamentary Phala Phala probe, backed by the EFF, IFP, Freedom Front Plus, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), UDM, African Transformation Movement (ATM) and African Independent Congress (AIC), came on the back of new developments in the first week of March.
These include the Constitutional Court effectively telling Ramaphosa to start his challenge against the Section 89 independent panel report and the recommendation in the high court, and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) acknowledging the $580,000 that Sudanese businessman Hazim Mustafa paid for the presidential farm animals had not been declared on his entry to South Africa in December 2019.
This, as SARS indicated to both Ramaphosa and Ntaba Nyoni Estate, the registered name of Phala Phala — also used in declarations to Parliament’s register of members’ interests during Ramaphosa’s deputy presidency — was tax-compliant.
A final Public Protector report remains outstanding, as is the South African Reserve Bank probe into exchange control contraventions, and the Hawks’ criminal investigations. DM