Cape Town - For the first time since a criminal complaint was laid against him just over a week ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa faced the wrath of EFF MPs who, to his face, called him a criminal.
Ramaphosa was at Parliament to present the Presidency’s budget vote speech, but the foremost issue preoccupying EFF MPs was the criminal complaint laid against him by former spy boss Arthur Fraser.
For over an hour Ramaphosa was harangued by several EFF MPs, including party leader Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, over a scandal which has engulfed him since last week.
Ramaphosa faces a police probe over allegations he had facilitated money laundering, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice after a burglary at his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo in February 2020 which had gone unreported.
According to Fraser, the burglars made off with an estimated $4 million (about R61.5m) hidden in the furniture of the farm’s main residence.
Fraser alleged that subsequent actions by Ramaphosa’s presidential head of security, Wally Rhoode, to track down the suspects amounted to a criminal conspiracy to conceal the president’s role in several crimes.
Before Ramaphosa could start his speech, EFF MP Anthony Matumba was first out of the blocks, raising a point of order, saying the president was going to “infect” MPs with an “acquired information disease syndrome”.
In a noisy back-and-forth with ANC MPs over Zoom, Matuma stood firm: “We can’t have someone addressing us who hides 16 million under the mattress.”
Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was repeatedly interrupted. She threatened to throw out those EFF MPs who had attempted to block Ramaphosa’s speech. But veteran EFF MP Natasha Ntlangwini fired back: “We can’t be addressed by a money launderer and criminal, we can’t be addressed by a person who (has) got such serious allegations against him.”
After being asked to withdraw the statement, Mapisa-Nqakula ordered Ntlangwini and Matumba leave the chamber. When they refused she ordered the serjeant-at-arms to physically remove them.
Not long after that, all MPs on Zoom were muted and Ramaphosa could go ahead with his speech, but 20 minutes in, lone EFF MP Babalwa Mathulelwa raised objections to Mapisa-Nqakula’s order that those on the virtual platform be muted.
For that, the Speaker ordered she be removed as well by the serjeant-at-arms. Ironically, the position at Parliament has been vacant since the end of 2019.
In his speech, Ramaphosa touched on the achievements of his administration as a result of improved economic growth.
Ramaphosa also highlighted the latest quarterly unemployment statistics and the provision of electricity, promising that soon more units at Kusile and Medupe would come on line.
Perhaps touching on his troubles, Ramaphosa said the fight against corruption continued, and the net was closing in on “those who for years grew fat off the money and resources meant for the benefit of the South African people”.
He said those who wanted to take the gaze off themselves feared the renewal agenda most, “and they will do anything to divert the focus off themselves.”