Johannesburg – The ANC integrity commission kicked for touch in its Phala Phala investigation after President Cyril Ramaphosa stubbornly refused to explain his role in the alleged theft of millions of undeclared US dollars two years ago at his Limpopo game farm.
The leaked report of the governing party’s ethics body, expected to be tabled before the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting this weekend, tiptoes around Ramaphosa’s glaring role in the mishandling of the alleged crime for which he faced charges of corruption, money laundering, and kidnapping.
The commission instead left it to the compromised NEC, dominated by Ramaphosa’s faction, citing that it was most appropriate that the NEC demand answers from him. “The (commission) finds that while the Phala Phala incident and events around it, have definitely brought the ANC into disrepute, at this stage it is not possible to determine individuals’ responsibilities in bringing the ANC into disrepute”.
The commission concluded: “The (commission) therefore recommends that the president takes the NEC into his confidence and the NEC takes the people of South Africa into its confidence on a matter which has brought the ANC into disrepute”. The report sums up the alleged Phala Phala crime as a mysterious incident that could be blamed on “the actions of individuals on (Ramaphosa’s) farm that have brought the ANC into disrepute”.
“It could be (Ramaphosa’s) response to events on the farm that have brought the ANC into disrepute. It could be the reporting of the incident to the police station by an ANC member that has brought the ANC into disrepute. It could be forces external to the ANC and the way in which they have mobilised around the incident that have brought the ANC into disrepute”.
“It could be the way in which forces within the ANC have mobilised that have brought the ANC into disrepute. It could be that (Ramaphosa) broke the law that has brought the ANC into disrepute,” said the commission as it washed its hands of the matter.
On June 1 this year former State Security Agency director general Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa and the head of his bodyguards, Major General Wally Rhoode over the Phala Phala game farm incident in February 202, including allegations of police involvement in the search and torture of the suspects and a subsequent cover-up of the incident when up to $4 million stashed in couches was allegedly stolen from the property.
For his part, Ramaphosa has opted to remain silent in the face of allegations that he should be charged with money laundering, contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, and corruption, in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
NEC TO RECEIVE COMMISSION REPORTS
On Friday ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile said the integrity commission reports would be the last item on the NEC agenda, scheduled to be discussed today, Sunday.
Other than the burning Phala Phala issue, the work of the commission would also be closely watched for the implications it would have on aspirant party leadership candidates who have had adverse findings made against them.
It was expected that the revised guidelines adopted by the Electoral Committee headed by former president Kgalema Motlanthe over the eligibility of candidates may be weaponised to elbow out opponents from the succession race taking place next month.
Among the targets mentioned was former health minister Zweli Mkhize, who has so far emerged as the most credible candidate to contest against Ramaphosa for the ANC presidency. As a result of his association with the Digital Vibes scandal involving a controversial communications contract in the national health department, the integrity commission last year recommended that Mkhize be suspended.
Digital Vibes, a communications firm owned by people close to Mkhize, allegedly received a tender improperly from the health department when Mkhize was minister of health. ANC insiders anticipated that “if Mkhize is a target, then Ramaphosa may well suffer from collateral damage”. In accordance with ANC electoral rules, party leaders who have faced adverse integrity commission reports are disqualified.
Although Ramaphosa got off scot-free in the integrity commission’s Phala Phala exercise, a report from an independent panel set up by Parliament on whether he should be impeached is expected on Thursday.
YENGENI GOES FOR THE JUGULAR
This weekend Ramaphosa finally gathered the courage to speak openly to the governing party’s highest decision-making body about his role in the Phala Phala saga. In June the police opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa in relation to the incident. Since then, Ramaphosa has consistently refused to put his knowledge of the incident on record. Instead, he opted for occasional sound-bites on platforms where his pleas for innocence would not be interrogated. On Friday he put his version before the NEC for the first time.
Ramaphosa would have been advised that the time for giving the country the runaround was over. He would have been advised that his opponent could use the weekend NEC meeting to embarrass him. Among Ramaphosa’s critics was ANC veteran Tony Yengeni. He arrived at the weekend meeting armed with a copy of the motion of no confidence against the party leader.
In the document, Yengeni listed Ramaphosa’s admission that he had evidence, without reporting, of the use of public funds in ANC elections. In addition, he also mentioned the concealment of dollars in Phala Phala Farm, citing that Ramaphosa violated the country’s Constitution.
“It is hereby proposed that a motion of no confidence in President Ramaphosa be passed by the National Executive Committee, the highest decision-making body of the ANC between National Conferences,” the document read.
“Our continued and slavish fear to confront our own president simply because he possesses, not revolutionary distinction, but money and resources, is a sad indictment on our leadership quality and commitment to the ANC and the people of South Africa,” he warned.
Yengeni also revived allegations that Ramaphosa bought voting delegates to win the ANC presidency in 2017, dubbed the #CR17 scandal. “It is common cause that the election of President Ramaphosa itself was a result of the use of money, hundreds of millions of rands in what became known as the CR 17 Campaign”.
“Such use of money was itself an egregious violation of what the ANC had already resolved against in the very 54th National Conference. The continued holding of the position of President by such a compromised individual does not only demean the stature of the ANC in the eyes of South Africans, but also sabotages the historic mission of the ANC,” he wrote.
He said “our continued tolerance of President Ramaphosa’s blatant disregard for unity in the ANC as he seeks to place our movement right in the hands of our historical enemies is itself a betrayal of our own revolutionary obligations”.
MKHIZE RULES OUT NDZ COLLABORATION
Amid talk of possible consolidation of lists in order to launch a formidable lobby group against Ramaphosa’s second term bid, Mkhize’s lobby group ruled out any collaboration with Dlamini-Zuma, who they accused of being “distant”. “Her campaign has collapsed and it would be worthless to offer her a position in the top six when her machinery was up for grabs and unlikely to support Ramaphosa”.
However, the Mkhize lobby had a soft spot for tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who had stuck by their side, even though she was possibly hedging on Mkhize getting arrested over Digital Vibes. Mashatile was so far touted as Mkhize’s running mate, but even with him, it was clear that he was also speaking to the Ramaphosa lobby.
“To the Ramaphosa side he tells them that Mkhize is going to be charged and to the Mkhize side he tells them that Phala Phala will sink Ramaphosa”.