Cape Town - While the ANC was successful in helping President Cyril Ramaphosa escape being hauled before an impeachment committee to account for the Farmgate scandal, the party goes into this weekend’s elective conference with “deep divisions” over combating corruption.
This after four MPs – presidential hopeful Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Mervyn Dirks, Supra Mahumapelo and Mosebenzi Zwane – broke ranks with the party when they voted for the adoption of the damning Section 89 report in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
The voting was not without controversy as ANC MP Thandi Mahambehlala initially stated “party line” when asked to cast her ballot and then said “yes” when asked again.
She later said the party line meant “no”. The voting procedure over the Section 89 report is likely to face litigation if threats of legal action by the EFF are anything to go by.
“We want to place it on record that we do not agree with the approach you have taken in terms of this vote and we are to subject this process to judicial review, which will include holding you personally liable for having taken purposefully undermined the democratic rights of MPs,” EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu said.
The EFF, the ATM and the UDM had argued strongly at the start of the special sitting, insisting on a secret ballot as opposed to a manual vote.
They cited death threats made to PAC leader Mzwanele Nyhontso and ANC MP and chairperson Gwede Mantashe’s statements that action would be taken against ANC MPs who did not toe the party line.
While 148 MPs voted in favour of the report, 214 were against and two abstained. Notably, presidential hopefuls Lindiwe Sisulu and Zweli Mkhize were nowhere to be seen, despite their repeated calls for Ramaphosa to be held accountable.
Mantashe had threatened MPs who refused to toe the party line, saying they should either vote against the report or leave the organisation.
He said on Tuesday he was not disappointed that some MPs broke ranks with the party, but he was happy they secured 214 votes.
The vote would give Ramaphosa the opportunity to subject the panel’s report to review in court, he said.
ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina said she would write to Luthuli House and inform them of what transpired in the voting. “I will be reporting to the officials (top six) for them to refer the matter for processes of the organisation,” Majodina said.
Reacting to the voting, DA leader John Steenhuisen said the ANC had not changed its undemocratic behaviour in the wake of state capture and the Zondo Commission report.
“What the ANC has perhaps not yet realised is that the blocking of the report in Parliament today was a pyrrhic victory for them, in that it shattered the myth around the party’s so-called renewal.
“Today South Africans were left in no doubt that the presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa is no different to the presidency of Jacob Zuma, and that both men would not hesitate to damage and weaken Parliament in order to evade scrutiny and the law,” Steenhuisen said.
ACDP chief whip Steve Swart said it was regrettable the ANC used its majority to not support the report.
IFP deputy leader Mzamo Buthelezi said: “This was an opportunity to hold the president accountable and assist to go deeper into the Phala Phala saga. It leaves limited avenues for Parliament to get to know what happened at Phala Phala.”
Policy analyst Nkosikhulule Nyembezi said the decision to reject the panel report would go down in history as one of the lowest points in Parliament’s history.
“With hindsight, the revelations of the panel report were to be the fulcrum on which the prospects of the governing ANC, and therefore opposition parties, turned.
“But for a victory so longed for, it feels like one unaccompanied by a sense of hope. Instead, the message from Luthuli House seems reminiscent of a military government that has taken control after an unruly revolution – order must be restored,” Nyembezi said.
He also said the courageous act by some ANC MPS to vote in favour of the report demonstrated deep divisions within the ANC over combating corruption.
“If victory in blocking the impeachment process means that the ANC is winnowed down to a shape acceptable to the rapacious interests it intends to challenge, that victory is questionable,” Nyembezi added.