/ 30 August 2022

Faced with MPs’ questions, Ramaphosa remains silent on Farmgate

Safrica Politics Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Nic BOTHMA / POOL / AFP)

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday reiterated that he could not give the country an explanation for the burglary at his Limpopo game farm in 2020 until all law enforcement investigations into the theft had been concluded.

Faced with a barrage of questions on the subject in the national assembly, Ramaphosa said he was ready to say more but he had been advised that it was not the time to do so.

“I would like to say that, without appearing that I do not want to answer questions, that I do not want to be accountable … I stand ready to cooperate and also to give an explanation, to cooperate with any investigations on this matter.

He said he had been cooperating with investigations by a number of law enforcement agencies and believed he should allow these to unfold.

“The authorities have said it is best if they deal with all the attendant matters to this theft that occurred at the farm and be able to address every issue and I have been counselled, advised that it is best to address this matter when those processes have been done and I would like to say I stand ready honourable speaker to, as people have said, take the nation into its confidence.

“I stand ready to do so, to give an explanation,” he said, in response to a question raised by the leader of the opposition African Transformation Movement, Vuyo Zungula.

“Now there are clearly individuals and organisations that seek some mileage out of this issue and the most appropriate from my side is for the law to take its own course. 

“It is, for me, important that due process is followed, including the process that is going to unfold in parliament.”

Ramaphosa was referring to a motion for his impeachment tabled by Zungula and supported by the majority of opposition parties.

Zungula protested that the president’s “so-called answer” was inadequate and said he had a duty to discuss the issue with MPs.

He added that it was disingenuous of Ramaphosa to defer to law enforcement agencies at this point when he did not have enough confidence in the police to report the burglary in 2020 when it happened.

United Democratic Movement Nqabayomzi Kwanka rose to support Zungula, saying Ramaphosa had failed to respond and this rendered the exercise of a presidential question and answer session futile. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) Julius Malema weighed in with: “He says he can answer everybody else except parliament … it is not correct. The president must answer the question.”

The EFF had raised the issue from the moment the session began, with Ramaphosa connecting virtually. He said he had not travelled to Cape Town because he wished to support his wife who had undergone a medical procedure.

“There is no law that permits him not to answer the question,” EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu continued, adding that the MPs and the rest of the country needed an explanation as to “millions of dollars in his mattresses and sofas. We want answers and it must happen today, now, here.”

Democratic Alliance chief whip Siviwe Gwarube noted that questions to the president must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the sitting where he will respond. This meant that the speaker had time to decide not to allow the question, should it be out of bounds. She had not done so, hence the president had to respond.

“If it was ill-suited the question must have been removed from the question paper, the question must then be answered,” she said.

Earlier, three EFF MPs were ordered out of the chamber after they began heckling Ramaphosa about the burglary even before he appeared on screen, with Shivambu striking up a chant of “We want the money in the mattress”, reminiscent of EFF MPs shouting “Pay back the money” at then president Jacob Zuma after the Nkandla scandal broke.

Ramaphosa has appeared before the ANC’s integrity commission in a tense session where it is understood he refused to take question, and instead agreed to appear again at a later stage.

He is believed to have told the commission the money was the proceeds of the sale of a single breeding bull to a buyer from Dubai.