Durban – The independent panel of experts tasked to determine whether President Cyril Ramaphosa has a case to answer regarding the Phala Phala farm scandal is expected to hand over their report to Parliament on Thursday.
The panel was formed after the ATM submitted a motion of no confidence against Ramaphosa.
The move came after former spy boss Arthur Fraser laid a criminal charge against Ramaphosa and former head of the Presidential Protection Unit, Wally Rhoode, for allegedly kidnapping and torturing five men and a woman to reveal where they had hidden millions in foreign currency stolen from the president’s farm.
ATM leader Vuyo Zungula submitted the motion for the National Assembly to initiate a Section 89 inquiry into Ramaphosa’s removal on the grounds of serious violation of the Constitution or the law and serious misconduct. The motion was supported by opposition parties including the EFF and UDM.
The panel was set to decide on whether there should be a Section 89 inquiry established.
Zungula, speaking to the Press Club yesterday, said the scandal had damaged the integrity of the executive, with allegations of serious crimes including money laundering and defeating the ends of justice.
National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula appointed former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, former head of the Gauteng High Court Division, Judge Thokozile Masipa and advocate Mahlape Sello to the panel.
“The purpose of the panel is to say, based on information before them, if there is prima facie evidence that warrants Parliament to look into the matter, if this is the case when the report is handed over, members of Parliament will then receive a report and will have an opportunity to look at it and go to the House and have it debated and adopted.”
Zungula said this would require a 50% plus one vote in the house and the party would use legal avenues if the ANC used its majority to “protect the president”. If the motion is adopted, then Parliament has to set up an impeachment inquiry that will call the president and the head of the Presidential Protection Unit to appear before it.
“We submitted an impeachment motion because the veracity of the charges by Fraser warranted such a motion.”
Zungula said Ramaphosa should not remain in power while the investigation is ongoing as it “sends the wrong message that the president is above the law”.
“Imagine if all ministers, premiers, MECs and mayors feel the same. We are fighting for accountability and justice and that everyone is held accountable in terms of the law,” Zungula said.
He said that in previous terms, Parliament had failed in its constitutional duties to hold the executive to account, hence their willingness to go to court if the motion failed.
According to Parliament’s website, once the panel has reported, the Speaker must schedule the report for consideration by the Assembly.
In the event the Assembly resolves that a Section 89(1) inquiry be proceeded with, the matter must be referred to an Impeachment Committee to investigate.
In terms of Rule 129 (O), the committee must report back to the National Assembly with findings, recommendations and reasons for such findings and recommendations.
The rule dictates that the report must be scheduled for consideration and debated by the Assembly with due urgency.
Should the Section 89 Committee recommend the removal of a president from office, it would require at least a two-thirds majority vote to remove the president with immediate effect, as stated in the rule. This means at least 266 of the 400 members of the Assembly should vote in favour of the committee’s recommendation to remove a president from office.
At the weekend Ramaphosa reportedly told the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting that he was innocent, saying he had been gagged by the public protector and could not comment further on the matter.
The party’s integrity commission is reportedly deadlocked on the outcomes of a report that suggests Ramaphosa take a leave of absence until the scandal is investigated and concluded.
Ramaphosa reportedly told the meeting the money that had been stolen from his farm was paid by Sudanese businessman Mustafa Mohamed Ibrahim Hazim for buffalo and that all his business interests had been declared, and that he had not broken any law.
It has been reported that Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was one of the NEC members who rejected the explanation, saying the president should step aside and raised issues with why the money had been hidden at the farm.
Other NEC members, including Lindiwe Sisulu, said it would be impossible to carry out an investigation while the president was still in office.
Ramaphosa had been criticised by former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma for refusing to reveal the details of the scandal.