Durban — Political analyst Professor Bheki Mngomezulu has cautioned the Constitutional Court to be consistent if it wants to be respected by all South Africans as the final arbiter.
Mngomezulu cautiously welcomed the highest court’s dismissal on Wednesday of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s application to challenge the Section 89 Panel report on the Phala Phala debacle.
The panel led by retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo found that the president has a case to answer to what actually happened in the burglary at his Phala Phala farm.
The president approached the highest court in the land and filed the application seeking direct access to the court to hear the matter. However, the court dismissed the president’s application, citing a jurisdiction problem.
The court said the president failed to argue for exclusive jurisdiction or direct access, therefore the application to intervene was dismissed.
The Nelson Mandela University-based political analyst said the president was misled by his legal team in the first place by bypassing lower courts and going straight to the Concourt which he said was wrong.
Mngomezulu, however, blamed the ConCourt for inconsistency, asking why it did not do the same to then deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo when he took former president Jacob Zuma straight to it after he refused to appear before the State Capture Commission.
“Well, the ConCourt has taken a good decision this time, but we are concerned with its inconsistency when it allows leaders to abuse it for their own ends. It was supposed to do the same when Zondo took former president Zuma’s matter to it but let’s give the ConCourt judges the benefit of the doubt,” said Mngomezulu.
Another political analyst, Professor Sipho Seepe, concurred with Mngomezulu that the ConCourt must maintain consistency. Seepe said the president should have gone to the High Court instead of jumping to the highest court.
He said the ruling was welcomed and was an indictment of the ANC Parliament members who voted against the report on the basis that the matter was being reviewed.
The judgment was widely welcomed by political parties and civil society. The ATM cited as a respondent alongside the panel members, welcomed the judgment, adding that the ruling had far-reaching implications.
Party president Vuyolwethu Zungula said the order tacitly meant the cult-like voting by the ANC MPs against the Section 89 Panel Report was irrational and based on legally unsound grounds.
“This ruling further strengthens the case by the ATM which challenged the rationality of the voting that took place in Parliament. Very importantly, this ruling means the findings of the panel that Ramaphosa may have violated his oath of office; seriously violated the Constitution; and has a case to answer for the violation of foreign exchange laws and regulations, among others, remain legally unchallenged. The impeachment process remains the only credible process for the president to respond to the findings of the panel report,” said Zungula.
The EFF, which filed papers in the Concourt opposing Ramaphosa’s bid to review the panel report, but was not cited as a respondent, also welcomed the ruling.
The party said from the beginning it knew that Ramaphosa’s approach to the Concourt was irrat i o n a l and senseless, because he was asking the highest court in the land to prevent Parliament from holding him accountable for the many crimes committed at Phala Phala.
“Parliament has an obligation to find out and reveal to the people of South Africa as to the origins of the millions of dollars found at Ramaphosa’s farm, and also expose the nefarious roles played by members of the SAPS and the inaction of other important state institutions.
“We have therefore written to the Speaker of Parliament to demand the establishment of an ad hoc committee to investigate all crimes committed at Phala Phala and to formally establish the impeachment process against the president.
“It will be irrational, senseless and reckless for the Speaker to refuse to hold the president accountable,” it said.
The DA also added its voice on the ruling and said the judgment confirmed what the DA had been saying from the start, which was that this matter can only be fully investigated – to the necessary extent – by the National Assembly in the form of an ad hoc committee in accordance with Rule 253.
The party said it would once again table a motion with Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to establish an ad hoc committee, saying the only constitutionally empowered body to deal with the matter was the National Assembly.
“As we have previously argued, the Phala Phala scandal does not begin and end with the president. As such, it necessitates an ad hoc committee that will have the full powers to summon and investigate Cabinet ministers, law-enforcement bodies, and other state institutions allegedly involved in this cover-up.
“An ad hoc committee is the route Parliament should have followed when this scandal first broke. The first witness that must be called by this committee, is Cyril Ramaphosa himself,” said the DA.
The Public Service and Commercial Union of SA (PSCUSA) also welcomed the ruling, saying the president’s attempts for direct access to the apex court were viewed by many as an exercise of impunity and an attempt to circumvent accountability.
“No man should be immune to the principle of equality before the law, a president or a pauper must all have the same rights.
“It is important to note that this ruling gives the president an opportunity to prove his innocence and prove the three-member Section 89 panel to have erred in its findings, it said.
The president’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, downplayed the ruling, saying it only dealt with the procedure, not merit. He said those who viewed it as a blow to the president may have misunderstood the order. He said the president’s legal team would convene and decide the way forward.
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