President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday asked the country’s apex court for direct access to challenge a damning report against him on the eve of today’s parliamentary hybrid sitting that will vote on whether he should face an impeachment committee.
The ANC has faced a dilemma since Wednesday, when the Section 89 independent panel report on the Phala Phala scandal found that there was prima facie evidence that Ramaphosa may have violated the Constitution.
Yesterday, Ramaphosa filed papers at the Constitutional Court for a review application of the report, saying that he wanted direct access to the highest court in the land because of the serious nature of the recommendations contained in the report.
In court papers, Ramaphosa said he was requesting direct access to the apex court as “this is an application for a decision of the kind contemplated by section 167 (4) (e) of the Constitution in that the court is asked to decide that the Panel, an organ of the National Assembly, failed to fulfil its obligations in terms of section 89 of the Constitution read with the rules of the National Assembly”.
He said the panel “misconceived its mandate, misjudged the information placed before it and misinterpreted the four charges advanced against me”.
Ramaphosa said the panel strayed beyond the four charges and considered matters not properly before it.
“It is submitted that the Panel had a duty to fulfil its constitutional obligations by conducting its inquiry lawfully and constitutionally. Its failure in this regard is the failure of constitutional obligations.”
The report found that a large sum of foreign currency had been stolen from the president’s farm, and that the matter had not been reported to the police.
The ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) had two meetings postponed until it finally met yesterday with the consensus reportedly that the party’s caucus in Parliament should vote against impeachment proceedings.
Yesterday, acting secretary-general Paul Mashatile confirmed that after holding a national working committee and NEC meeting, the party would vote against the adoption of the report.
“We deliberated on the issue throughout the day. Members agreed unanimously that it is the prerogative of the president to take this matter on review. There was a lot of debate on the report itself, and we agreed we would not support impeachment proceedings at Parliament,” said Mashatile, adding that there was not unanimous agreement on this aspect.
“The president must subject himself to processes of the integrity committee, acting public protector and others, but the NEC felt the president should not step down.
“The decision that we take is in the best interest of the country, let the president proceed with his duties until such time as all these processes say otherwise,” said Mashatile.
Opposition parties that had their requests for a secret ballot and for a physical session with all MPs present at today’s session rejected by Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, nonetheless were confident that some ANC MPs would support the motion for an impeachment committee.
Yesterday, EFF leader Julius Malema said he was happy that the vote would not be according to a secret ballot.
“The ANC tomorrow (today) must vote against the impeachment process so South Africans can see them for who they are.
“They don’t have regard for the people of South Africa.”
On Saturday, opposition parties sent out a joint communication as part of their multi-party forum on how they wanted today’s process to unfold, however it was not clear yesterday if all opposition MPs would vote to adopt the impeachment motion.
Malema said that if the DA and ANC MPs whom they had spoken to supported the vote, then the impeachment committee would go ahead.
“The report will be adopted tomorrow. If he loves the ANC he must resign so the ANC speaks with one voice,” said Malema.
“The Constitution and rule of law must not be doubted and disrespected because a favourite of the establishment has broken the law. He must be removed as a matter of urgency.”
Malema said that if Ramaphosa took the panel report on judicial review, as had been widely reported, then this would be disrespectful to South Africans and the Constitution.
“Tomorrow (today) will separate the women from girls and men from boys, especially those who have called for the president to resign, and whether they will repeat it in Parliament.”
DA leader John Steenhuisen yesterday, in a letter to opposition party leaders in the multi-party forum, said the party would be voting in favour of the impeachment proceedings.
He said they wanted to hold Ramaphosa accountable.
“As such we will be voting in favour of the section 89 independent panel report proceeding to the next step as set out in the Rules of the National Assembly.
“We believe this will give greater scope for the investigation and will allow for a deeper interrogation of the matters relating to what really happened at Phala Phala.”