Ramaphosa misses deadline on Phala Phala

President Cyril Ramaphosa has missed an extended deadline to reply to questions from the public protector regarding the burglary at his Phala Phala game farm, meaning that he will now be subpoenaed in an investigation as to whether he flouted the executive ethics code.

The deadline expired on Monday, the office of the public protector said on Tuesday afternoon.

“A request for a further extension has instead been filed. The request for a further extension has been denied and [this] was communicated to the president on 18 July 2022,” it added.

The president initially had 14 days to respond to questions, as per the rule for requests for information in investigations on a breach of the code. Acting public protector Kholeka Gcaleka then granted him another four weeks to respond.

Gcaleka’s office noted that rule 23 of the rules of the public protector’s office allows her to demand that the president submit a comprehensive reply to the questions put to him within a week.

“Where the state institution has failed to submit a reply within the timeframes, … the public protector may direct the state institution concerned to submit a substantive reply, which reply must be received not later than seven days from the date of the directive,” the public protector’s office said on Tuesday.

It added that it would therefore be invoking the subpoena powers of the office, in line with section 7(4) of the Public Protector Act.

This states: “For the purposes of conducting an investigation the public protector may direct any person to submit an affidavit or affirmed declaration or to appear before him or her to give evidence or to provide any document in his or her possession or under his or her control which has a bearing on a matter being investigated, and may examine such person.”

The investigation stems from a complaint filed to the public protector last month by the leader of the African Transformation Movement, Vuyo Zungula. The public protector has since received three further complaints, one filed by the Democratic Alliance and two by members of the public.

Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane confirmed that an investigation would follow, one day before she was suspended by Ramaphosa, pending the outcome of parliament’s section 194 inquiry into her fitness to hold office. 

Ramaphosa has denied suggestions by Mkhwebane and his political foes that it was an act of retaliation and has given assurances that the investigation will be conducted without fear or favour.

The Economic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday bayed for blood, saying the failure to meet the deadline made the president “a constitutional delinquent”.

Ramaphosa has to date not given a fulsome explanation as to what transpired at the game farm in Limpopo since former State Security Agency head Arthur Fraser opened a case with the South African Police Service in late May alleging that millions of dollars were stolen in a burglary in early 2020 that was never reported to the police.

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