DURBAN - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has indicated her office was ready to move on President Cyril Ramaphosa over his utterances heard in a leaked voice recording.
Earlier this month, the Daily News published an article on the recording wherein the president said he would “rather fall on the sword” than reveal the names of those who stole state funds for political campaigns.
Mkhwebane on Wednesday responded to this publication after the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) resolved on Tuesday to take Ramaphosa to task and instruct him to explain himself within 10 days.
“If the complaint is lodged under the Executive Members Ethics Act, we must investigate and cannot wait for Scopa processes, but if it is lodged under the Public Protector Act, then we can allow the Scopa process to take its course,” Mkhwebane said.
During the Scopa sitting, convened to consider the ANC’s Mervyn Dirks’s letter requesting Ramaphosa be summoned before the committee for his utterances, Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the committee would write to Mkhwebane informing her they would be investigating the Ramaphosa recording. Hlengwa said this was because Dirks had also reported Ramaphosa to Mkhwebane over the recording.
He also indicated the auditor-general’s office needed to explain whether it had detected any misuse of public funds in the State Security department, as alleged by Ramaphosa, who said he was aware that state funds were misused.
Approached for comment, the spokesperson for State Security, Mava Scott refused to indicate whether funds were misused and stated the matter was before Scopa, and the institution would not interfere with the process.
Asked whether the auditor-general’s office had detected any misuse of funds at State Security, Africa Boso, the auditor-general’s spokesperson, said: “The AGSA conducts audits of the State Security Agency on an annual basis and submits them to the joint standing committee on intelligence as part of the annual report. The reports are classified.
“The auditor-general has not received any communication on the matter from Scopa and will, after receiving the correspondence, respond directly to the committee,” Boso said.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said the Presidency had noted the decision announced by Scopa and were awaiting correspondence on the matter.
“The president understands the responsibility of members of the executive with respect to Scopa and will assist the committee in the fulfilment of its mandate,” Seale said.
In his presentation to Scopa, Dirks accused Ramaphosa of committing a crime by not reporting to the authorities those who stole state funds.
“We all know that it is also illegal, I re-emphasise again, a crime for anyone who is aware of such a crime not to report it to the authorities. In short, what the president admitted to is that he is committing a crime by not having reported this act of criminality that is known to him. However, the president goes even further by trying to make this criminal conduct of his – to which he admits personally – seem virtuous by saying that he will rather fall on his sword than report it,” Dirks said.
Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga said although what Ramaphosa might have said in the audio clip might be true he would easily avoid disclosing anything to Scopa.
He said the first dilemma for Scopa would be that the president could argue on the admissibility of the clip and demand to know how it was obtained and landed in the hands of Parliament. Second, Mathekga said he would demand that Scopa produce substantive information on the allegations beyond the clip.
“People should not forget the president is a lawyer by profession. He would argue that Scopa did not have the full clip which would have the context of what he was saying, so the part of the clip in the public domain was out of context, and if he could be forced to answer on the basis of its current form it would prejudice him. It is good for democracy that the president of the country will appear before a parliamentary committee but it ends here, nothing more,” Mathekga said.
His sentiments were shared by a legal expert, advocate Mpumelelo Zikalala, who said the president had already won on technical grounds, saying he would raise the context issue which Scopa would fail to prove.
“I see the president coming out smiling at the Scopa meeting. I do not think it (Scopa) has substantive information except the audio clip, and the president will tell the committee members he will not provide the content of discussion from the meeting of the political party to the parliamentary structure like Scopa.”