South Africa

FARMGATE SCANDAL

Critics of Public Protector’s Phala Phala report should ‘take the matter on review’, Mbalula tells ANCYL conference

Critics of Public Protector’s Phala Phala report should ‘take the matter on review’, Mbalula tells ANCYL conference
Fikile Mbalula, ANC Secretary-General.(Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka’s report clearing President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing pertaining to the Phala Phala matter is a victory for the ANC, which has been struggling to uphold its moral standing.

Speaking at the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) conference on Saturday afternoon, party Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula spoke firmly against criticism hurled at Gcaleka. 

“There are people sitting here and hoping that the President will not finish his term. Kholeka showed them to the fireworkers and released that report. As the ANC, we are very happy that our President has been exonerated by the Public Protector.” 

The governing party’s administrative head mentioned that those who are dissatisfied with the outcomes should instead take the matter on review.  

“We believe the President will pass the test of time regarding this issue. If they feel like the report is weak, they have no right to offend the office and that woman [Gcaleka]. The report can be taken on review. We welcome the report. The President has stated that he is innocent. We took the posture we took because there are processes. Allow those processes to continue. That report is very clear that these allegations were not substantiated,” Mbalula said.  

The complaint against President Cyril Ramaphosa was laid by African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader Vuyo Zungula, which then led the Public Protector’s Office to investigate. Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen, along with two members of the public – Elias Muller and Simphiwe Ndlovu – also laid a complaint regarding the matter. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know (and don’t know) so far

The report – which was released by the Public Protector on Friday, 30 June 2023 – regarded allegations that there was a risk of a conflict of interest between the constitutional duties of the President and his obligations and his private interests arising from or affected by his alleged paid work at Phala Phala farm as unsubstantiated. 

The report states that the evidence brought forward by DA leader Steenhuisen that Ramaphosa abused his position of power in relation to using state resources to investigate the crime of housebreaking did not have substantial evidence.

In her recommendations, Gcaleka said Minister of Police Bheki Cele must take note of findings of maladministration and improper conduct against the SAPS in connection with the allegation that members of the SAPS attached to the Presidential Protection Service acted improperly by investigating the crime of housebreaking, the intent to steal and theft, which took place at the farm, “in line with the authority vested on the Minister of Police, in terms of section 206 of the Constitution”. 

Meanwhile, opposition parties have expressed their disapproval with the DA and the ATM threatening to head to the courts to challenge the outcome. 

In a statement, the DA dubbed the outcome as a “pro-Ramaphosa public relations exercise”.

“The Democratic Alliance will be consulting with our lawyers to take this report on review, as we believe it contains a number of misinterpretations of the relevant pieces of legislation, and presents a worrying lack of evidence that the Office of the Public Protector itself has seemingly failed to source,” the official opposition states.

The ATM rejects what it believes is the “legally unsound” Phala Phala report. 

“Hence, the African Transformation Movement has taken a decision of approaching the high court with the aim of reviewing this report by the Acting Public Protector and have it set aside. The President has to account for his crimes in Phala Phala and we will not rest until he does,” said the party. 

The EFF, on the other hand, called Gcaleka a “imposter and hired gun”.

“In consideration of the findings of the Independent Panel, the report by Kholeka Gcaleka is therefore not worth the paper it is written on, and must be rejected by all sound-minded and objective South Africans. Her findings are at odds with the basic prescripts of governance, law and logic,” the Red Berets said.

In a short statement, the Presidency had the following to say about the outcome of the report: “The Presidency has noted the report of the Acting Public Protector, Adv Kholeka Gcaleka, which absolves the President of alleged abuse of power or breaches of the Executive Ethics Code in relation to an incident of theft at his privately owned Phala Phala game farm in 2020.

“The President has always maintained that he was not party to any wrongdoing or violation of his oath of office.” DM

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