Cape Town – The three-member panel of experts mandated to determine whether President Cyril Ramaphosa has a prima facie case to answer on his Phala Phala farm robbery has been given until November 30 to submit its report.
This comes after the panel’s chairperson, retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, made the request for an extension to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.
Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Ngcobo had indicated to Mapisa-Nqakula that the panel had assessed the enquiry process to determine if it would meet the submission on Thursday and based on its assessment of the amount of ground still to be covered and available resources, determined that the enquiry should be completed by November 30.
“The panel said the additional time requested was realistic taking into account the importance of the enquiry, its complexity, as well as the novelty of the nature of work involved.
“The panel believes that it was in the public interest that an enquiry of this nature be scrupulously conducted and all the information and submissions placed before it be carefully considered,” Mothapo said.
He said Mapisa-Nqakula was mindful that the parliamentary rules did not provide for extension of deadline for submission of the panel’s report, she invoked one that dealt with unforeseen circumstances.
“In terms of this rule, the Speaker may give a ruling or frame a rule in respect of any eventuality for which the rules or orders of the House do not provide, having due regard to the procedures, precedents, practices and conventions developed by the House and on the basis of constitutional values and principles underpinning an open, accountable and democratic society.”
The panel, which started its work on October 19, was formed after the ATM submitted a motion of confidence against Ramaphosa when Arthur Fraser lifted the lid on the theft of millions of dollars on the Phala Phala farm and laid criminal charges in June.
Ngcobo, former justice in the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Judge Thokozile Masipa and advocate Mahlape Sello – now have 13 days to compile their report.
ATM spokesperson Sibusiso Mncwabe said they accepted the extension because it had been requested by the chairperson of the panel, not by the Speaker.
Mncwabe said parties had made voluminous submissions to the panel. “We can’t object if the chair says there is a lot they are processing, but we request the Speaker to distribute the report immediately when it is finalised on November 30,” he said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he did not have a problem with the extension requested by the panel.
“They asked for an extension until the end of the month. It would have been difficult if it came from the Speaker,” Holomisa said.
“To avoid being accused of delaying the process, they should, when they give the Speaker the report, do what Thuli Madonsela did to the Nkandla report and call a press conference.
“They may give it to the Speaker in the morning and then at 12pm present the report to the media and take questions so that they exonerate themselves from accusations,” he said.
Holomisa also said they would not accept Mapisa-Nqakula saying she would apply her mind when she was furnished with the report.
He said if Ramaphosa was found to have a case to answer, she should schedule a sitting of the House “even if scheduled for February. If there is no case, the public will understand instead of being in a state of anxiety”.
DA chief whip Siviwe Gwarube said her party would call for today’s programme committee, that Parliament’s programme should also be extended to deal with the pending report.
Gwarube said the panel was due to report to Mapisa-Nqakula a day before Parliament was meant to rise.
“The matter cannot be delayed or deferred to next year. It is urgent. No sitting president should have a question of whether or not he broke the law and by extension his oath of office hanging over his head,” she said.
She said parliamentary rules compelled Mapisa-Nqakula to table the report before the House as a matter of urgency and it made sense that this was then done in the first week of December.
“The DA will reach out to other opposition parties who have been calling for accountability on this matter to support the call to extend the programme of Parliament,” Gwarube said.
The EFF condemned the “opportunism” by the panel and Mapisa-Nqakula for allegedly conniving to extend the deadline of the report.
Spokesperson Leigh-Ann Mathys said the extension meant that the report could not be tabled this year as the fourth term would end on December 1.
“This is yet another delay tactic, objectively to ensure that Ramaphosa is not held accountable before the internal political party elective conference,” she said.
“It is a collusion to protect Ramaphosa from scrutiny and not jeopardise his desire to secure a second term as the leader of the ruling party,” Mathys said.