Home South African Speaker sticks to her guns on Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm probe

Speaker sticks to her guns on Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm probe

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John Steenhuisen said Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was ignoring recommendations by the Zondo Commission report on state capture, which cautioned Parliament against repeating what happened when it defended former president Jacob Zuma from being held accountable.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

By: Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane

NATIONAL Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula insists that she forwarded sufficient reasons to the DA on why she rejected the party’s request to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in the Waterberg, Limpopo.

Parliamentary spokesperson Mothapo Moloto said their media statement, released at the weekend, was enough.

“The Speaker is firmly applying the rules of the National Assembly without fear, favour or prejudice, and guarding the constitutional powers, processes, and framework within which Parliament is obliged to discharge its functions.”

Moloto was reacting to DA leader John Steenhuisen’s public outcry over the Speaker’s rejection of the party’s request.

Steenhuisen said Mapisa-Nqakula was ignoring recommendations by the Zondo Commission report on state capture, which cautioned Parliament against repeating what happened when it defended former president Jacob Zuma from being held accountable. “This act is quite frankly a case of history repeating itself if we consider Parliament’s refusal, under the ANC, to establish an ad-hoc committee to investigate the allegations surrounding former president Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, which turned out to be disastrously true.

“In fact, this act has shown the nation that Parliament and the Speaker, under the ANC, have learnt nothing from the nine wasted years in which South Africa lost trillions of rand to corruption, and suffered dramatic developmental and economic regression, while our institutions merely stood by and watched.

“Similarly, it shows that the Speaker has not heeded the recommendations in Justice Zondo’s report nor the questions raised therein, surrounding Parliament’s paralysis when requests for urgent ad-hoc committees and portfolio committees were called for at the time,” said Steenhuisen.

In his report, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo lambasted ANC parliamentarians for being unwilling to investigate their leaders.

“The ANC leadership remained committed to supporting Zuma and its cadres or deployees, and was unwilling to expose the allegations of malfeasance to transparent public scrutiny,” Zondo wrote.

Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala scandal was being treated with “kid gloves”.

“Once again Parliament is standing by and watching while our head of state is mired in serious allegations of theft, kidnapping, and abuse of state resources – allegations which taint the Office of the Presidency and could render Ramaphosa wholly unfit to hold public office.

“The ANC is once again re-purposing Parliament as a rug under which it sweeps scandals and corruption out of sight of the public eye,” said the DA leader.

The DA is not the first political party to write to the speaker, asking her to probe the Phala Phala farmgate scandal.

Last month, African Transformation Movement (ATM) leader, Vuyo Zungula, wrote to Mapisa-Nqakula, citing “overwhelming prima facie evidence against the president”, and the fact that almost all heads of law enforcement agencies were his appointees as the reason why a parliamentary committee was needed to probe the $4 million (R68.3m) burglary.

Zungula said his party would focus only on areas where transgressions were neither contested nor in dispute.

“Incidentally these are the areas where Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction. First, there is prima facie evidence that the president has violated the Constitution, which says members of the Cabinet and deputy ministers may not ‘undertake any other paid work’,” wrote Zungula. However, the ATM’s request was rejected.

Molopo said the Speaker rejected the requests from both political parties because they were unclear on what should be investigated. “The Speaker declined the (DA) request arguing that Rule 253 sets out requirements for the establishment of an ad-hoc committee, and one of them is the performance of a specific task. While the request proposes a committee on Phala Phala, it goes on to list various distinct tasks for investigation.

“However, some of the tasks proposed are arguably still within the purview of other entities or institutions, including law enforcement, and may indeed necessitate Parliament’s attention in due course.

“At this stage, the various components raised by Mr Steenhuisen for parliamentary intervention are better suited for attention by the existing parliamentary oversight structures. The Speaker has also declined the ATM motion to seek the removal of the president in terms of Section 89 of the Constitution.

“In her letter to Mr Vuyo Zungula of the ATM, the Speaker explained that from reading his submission, she was unable to determine which of the listed grounds in section 89(1) he was relying on … the motion must be limited to a clearly formulated, substantiated charge … ”

According to Parliament’s constitutional mandate to the Speaker, she must “provide political leadership and strategic direction to the House, exercise impartiality at all times in pursuance of these duties. The impartiality of the Speaker is one of the prime values the integrity of Parliament is measured in terms of. The Speaker thus has the responsibility of preserving parliamentary integrity … ” reads the mandate.

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