/ 9 June 2022

Opposition demands that Ramaphosa account for incident in which money was stolen from his farm

Presidency Budget Vote Parliament Dh 8304
Parliament was disrupted for an hour until the speaker of the national assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asked security guards to remove certain EFF members. (David Harrison/M&G)

“Money launderer”, “point of order”, “voetsek”, “criminal”, “kidnapper”, Economic Freedom Fighters MPs screamed on Thursday in parliament when President Cyril Ramaphosa was about to deliver his budget vote speech.

Parliament was disrupted for an hour until the speaker of the national assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula asked security guards to remove certain EFF members. 

“I am pleading with you as honourable members of parliament to let the president continue. I will not allow anyone to raise a point of order again because they are frivolous,” she said. 

He said: “The greatest disservice we can do to our people at this difficult time in the life of our nation is to become distracted from the task at hand. The challenges we face as a country are many. We are still in the grip of a devastating pandemic that has caused over 100 000 reported deaths in our country.

“Poverty, unemployment and under-development cast a heavy cloud and are preventing millions of people from leading lives of dignity. Cost of food, water and electricity make it difficult for people in the country to get by. Floods and looting, [we are] still recovering from … bread-and-butter issues that have always mattered the most to our people.

“What the South African people want above all else is to see their quality of life improved.They do not care for political squabbles, rivalries, plots and intrigue.They want better basic services,” he said.

But the political squabbles have probably taken up a lot of Ramaphosa’s time this past week. On Wednesday, former crime intelligence director general Arthur Fraser opened a criminal case against Ramaphosa on charges related to fraud, corruption, money laundering and kidnapping after an alleged cover-up of a theft at president’s Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo. 

The president confirmed the theft took place in February 2020. 

On Tuesday at a press conference, EFF leader Julius Malema called on Ramaphosa to step aside after Fraser’s charges. 

“If Ramaphosa refuses to step aside to allow transparent investigations to take place, the EFF will then mobilise many sectors of society to stop recognising him as a president of the Republic and will not permit him to perform any presidential functions.”  

The civil case against Ramaphosa regarding the  Marikana massacre in 2012 started last week. Miners and widows are demanding an apology from Ramaphosa and are suing him for R1-billion following the shooting of 34 miners. 

Eight years ago, the EFF called on then president Jacob Zuma to “pay back the money” in reference to “improvements” on his Nkandla home.

On Thursday it was Ramaphosa’s speech that was disrupted. EFF members argued that they could not be addressed by someone accused of being involved in criminal activities. EFF MP Anthony Mafumaba shouted: “We can’t be addressed by a money launderer and thief.”

He was asked by Mapisa-Nqakula to leave the house after refusing to retract his statements. He was assisted in this by the sergeant at arms.

For an hour EFF MPs, both online and in the chamber, made noisy points of order. 

“The rules indicate that if honourable members raise irrelevant points of order the presiding officer must take necessary actions,” said the minister of international relations and cooperation, Naledi Pandor. 

The speaker had earlier asked MPs to exercise their freedom of speech without causing disruptions during the speech. “Honourable members,  I am asking you to stop raising points of orders that have no sense,” she said.  

Malema cautioned Ramaphosa during the press conference on Tuesday in Johannesburg that if he did not step aside they would begin lobbying against him. 

“No one, and absolutely no one in South Africa, should stand by and watch a head of state undermine the rule of law and do as he wishes because he believes he is protected by the system,” he said. 

After several EFF members were removed from the chamber and others muted from the online platform, Ramaphosa could proceed in outlining what his ministry would focus on.

However during the debate opposition parties laid into the president, asking Ramaphosa to serve the people with integrity, be transparent about what happened at his farm and why he did not report the alleged crime.

However, during his speech Ramaphosa highlighted the Statistics South Africa’s first- quarter GDP numbers — the economy grew by 1.9% — which has brought the economy to pre-pandemic levels much sooner than analysts expected.

“Last week, the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey was released, showing that the number of unemployed people in the country dropped in the first three months of 2022.  

This translates to 370 000 jobs created between the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of this year.”

Ramaphosa also lauded the Presidential Employment Stimulus, saying it has created
879 000 opportunities of which 84% are for youth and 62% for women. These programmes range from waste collection to small-scale farming and those working in the arts and culture sector.  

The electricity issues took centre stage in his speech and he announced that the Electricity Regulations Amendment Bill had been published for public comment.

“Once these changes are implemented, we will have multiple generators competing to supply electricity at the lowest cost and selling power directly to customers. We will unleash new public and private sector investment in generation capacity at a massive scale.  In the short term, however, we are seized with the need to get as much new generation capacity on to the grid as possible, as quickly as possible. The current electricity shortfall is estimated at up to 6 000MW. We will soon be introducing extra measures to bring new capacity online,” he said. 

In concluding, Ramaphosa reiterated that his presidency was expecting the national framework towards the implementation of professionalisation of the public sector to be fully implemented across departments and state entities within the next year. 

He said the fight against corruption continues apace and the net is closing on those who for years grew fat off the money and resources meant for the benefit of the South African people.

“It is they who fear the renewal agenda most. And they will do anything to divert the focus off themselves. We are a government hard at work to grow our economy and create jobs. And our hard work is bearing fruit. The presidency will continue to lead the work towards the vision of a better life for all and an economic reconstruction and recovery that leaves no-one behind.”