Phala Phala to take centre stage in parliament next week

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Tough road ahead for President Cyril Ramaphosa as he is set to answer questions on Phala Phala in parliament this week.
Tough road ahead for President Cyril Ramaphosa as he is set to answer questions on Phala Phala in parliament this week.
Image: GCIS.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will again face the heat on Phala Phala this week as parliament sets into motion the process to hold him accountable.

On Tuesday, Ramaphosa will face oral questions from MPs for the first time since the farmgate scandal broke in June. 

MPs tried to push him on the matter during the presidency budget vote in June to no avail.

National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed during a meeting of the assembly’s programming committee on Thursday that an independent panel would have 30 days to consider evidence that could lead to a full-blown parliamentary inquiry into Ramaphosa’s fitness to hold office.

Political parties have until Thursday to nominate people to sit on the panel, from which Mapisa-Nqakula would select three names.

The function of the independent panel is to conduct a preliminary assessment of the proposed motion and make a recommendation to the speaker within 30 days, whether sufficient evidence exists to show Ramaphosa committed any of the violations specified in the motion.  

Shortly after former correctional services boss Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa about a robbery at the president’s Phala Phala farm in which a large sum of cash was allegedly stolen, African Transformation Movement leader Vuyo Zungula submitted a motion to Mapisa-Nqakula requesting the house to initiate an inquiry into Ramaphosa’s removal from office as provided for by section 89 of the constitution.

The party argued the president had violated the constitution, which prohibits members of the cabinet and deputy ministers from “undertaking any other paid work”, among other things. It also suggested Ramaphosa had tried to cover up the robbery as he he had not reported it to the police as required by law.

According to parliamentary rules, when a motion is in order the speaker must immediately refer it and supporting documents to an independent panel of experts. 

The speaker must then appoint the panel after giving political parties represented in the National Assembly a reasonable opportunity to put forward nominees and after she has given due consideration to all persons so nominated.

Ramaphosa did not answer oral questions in the last term of parliament, which ended in June, but will do so twice during this term.

Among the questions he will face on Tuesday is one from Zungula on:

  • whether, notwithstanding the ongoing investigations by the Hawks and the acting public protector, he has considered it prudent to take the nation into his confidence on the serious allegations surrounding his Phala Phala farm by accounting to the people of SA and speaking on the specified issue in the National Assembly, where the elected representatives of the people can engage him on the scandal that has divided the country and caused immeasurable harm to the reputation of the republic;
  • whether with the benefit of hindsight he has found that he could have responded differently to the serious allegations surrounding him with regard to the saga around his Phala Phala farm?

Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence is also probing specific allegations about the Phala Phala matter, including whether deputy state security minister Zizi Kodwa, knew about the robbery and opted to keep the matter a secret rather than reporting it to the appropriate authorities.

It has also been alleged that Kodwa accompanied Maj-Gen Wally Rhoode, the head of the presidential protection unit, during secret interactions between the South African and Namibian authorities and reports that a secret crime intelligence fund was used to finance the undercover operations which traced the thieves with the goal of recovering the stolen money.  


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