‘No dirty dollars’, says Ramaphosa as Phala Phala farm forex saga returns to public spotlight
President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliamentarians no ‘dirty dollars’ existed in the Phala Phala farm forex saga, days after ANC legislators defeated another special parliamentary probe. Also on Thursday, ex-President Thabo Mbeki’s letter emerged, saying those votes — and the ones against Eskom corruption — were ‘mistakes’.
Mbeki’s letter to ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile doesn’t mince words — if the ANC believed its president did not do anything wrong, why would the governing party use its numbers in the House to defeat probes by Parliament?
“I would presume that as ANC members we would assume that our president would not do and has not done anything which Parliament should not investigate in the course of the discharge of its constitutional duties,” wrote ex-president Mbeki in the letter, dated 29 March.
“The puzzle is — Why then did we stop an [ad hoc committee] being formed we would be convinced would exactly establish that our president has not done anything wrong?
“Or are we saying that we suspect or know that he has done something wrong and therefore decided that we must protect our president at all costs by ensuring no [ad hoc committee] is formed?
“If that is the case, what message are we communicating to the masses of our people about the values and integrity of the ANC?”
And if the words on the Phala Phala farm forex saga weren’t sufficiently scathing, sharp criticism followed of the ANC using its numbers to vote down an ad hoc committee into corruption at Eskom.
“It will have come across to this public as very strange and disturbing that when a proposal was made that Parliament should undertake such a focused allegation into the alleged criminality at Eskom, we promptly voted against an eminently correct proposal.”
This all, Mbeki wrote to Mashatile, further alienated the governing party from South Africans, “Why are we taking actions which play straight into the hands of the counter-revolutionary forces?”
Mbeki’s leaked letter stands in contrast to the ANC MPs’ line during the 22 March vote against a Phala Phala ad hoc committee largely on the back of the ongoing criminal Hawks investigation and the SA Reserve Bank probe into exchange control violations.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Phala Phala down: ANC foils parliamentary probe into Ramaphosa scandal despite united opposition
It was the second DA motion for a special parliamentary Phala Phala probe motivated on the back of new developments. The first was voted down in late 2022 after some pushback over parliamentary rules.
Then, on 13 December 2022, the ANC used its numbers in the House to vote against establishing a presidential impeachment inquiry in line with the recommendation of the Section 89 independent panel that President Cyril Ramaphosa had a case to answer.
Eskom corruption probe
The ANC also used its majority in the House to defeat a DA motion on an investigation into Eskom corruption and organised crime as alleged by ex-CEO André de Ruyter.
Instead, De Ruyter will appear before Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), committee chairperson IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
Mbeki’s wide-ranging letter, also in support of the Constitution, cautions against the ANC simply voting down a matter because it was proposed by the opposition. “[It] cannot be correct to suggest that the ANC has some policy which says that its Members of Parliament must necessarily oppose anything and everything proposed by the opposition.”
But on Thursday in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) question slot, Ramaphosa held the line he’s taken since the farm forex saga erupted in June 2022 — processes and investigations must run their course, and he’s cooperating.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Phala Phala is fast becoming your Nkandla,’ Steenhuisen tells Ramaphosa in disrupted debate
“I will continue to say there’s no dirty dollars. And I have said in various statements that this has been the result of a transaction as the farmer that I am, who has sold game. That process is being thoroughly looked at. Having opened myself to cooperate with those institutions, we should wait until all those institutions come to a conclusion.”
DA NCOP delegate Cathlene Labuschagne leveraged a question on South Africa’s greylisting by the global anti-money laundering and terror financing monitoring entity (FATF) to ask Ramaphosa about being part of the problem, given the “dirty dollars” — a reference to the dollars stolen from sofa cushions at the President’s Phala Phala farm.
“We should wait for the process to be concluded to come to the type of conclusion that you are alluding to…” responded Ramaphosa.
Earlier, he swatted away a question from DA NCOP delegate Dennis Ryder on whether he’d support a parliamentary oversight committee for the Presidency, which is getting more and more powers, like the electricity minister.
“I trust all my ministers and I trust the leader of government business, my Deputy President… There is oversight. Part of what I am doing now is part of that — I stand here answering questions.”
With the EFF absent, and ANC applause after every answer and standing ovations for both the walk to and from the Speaker’s podium, Ramaphosa’s NCOP Q&A was an overwhelmingly comfortable session. DM