/ 3 November 2022

Ramaphosa has betrayed the trust of South Africa’s people by not coming clean on Phala Phala robbery

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President Cyril Ramaphosa, out of respect for the Constitution please do the right thing and resign and hand yourself over to the police.

It is unprecedented in our new democracy for a head of state to be under investigation by virtually all conceivable institutions of governance, including the South African Reserve Bank, the South African Revenue Service (Sars), the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the public protector and parliament.

It is common cause that up to now Ramaphosa has failed to take the nation into his confidence and explain how the $20-million stolen from his Phala Phala farm came into the country. Although figures in the public domain vary, the African Transformation Movement has submitted as supporting evidence for impeachment a recording of a National Prosecuting Authority investigator stating that the stolen money was $20-million. Even his claim of cooperating with investigation agencies has proved to be vacuous and riddled with all kinds of irrational extensions. 

It is worth noting that all the heads of the institutions that are investigating the Phala Phala scandal are all appointees of Ramaphosa and thus it’s not really surprising though disappointing that they are so afraid to do the right thing as expected of their mandates and duty to the Constitution.

Our Constitution and investigating agencies have been battered and bruised, resulting in the loss of trust by the people.

Ramaphosa’s shameful Phala Phala scandal symbolises the betrayal of people’s hopes and aborted promises. It’s an assault on the Constitution. It’s a clear dereliction of the constitutional duty by the sitting president.

When Ramaphosa was elected president in 2018, he swore to the nation and international community, to “be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic”. He had also promised to be transparent and accountable to the citizens through parliament.

There’s no denying the fact that the president is supposed to be the embodiment of the Constitution. As the head of state, he carries the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the entire nation on his shoulders. He should be the first to uphold the law. The Constitution demands the president to be the defender of the laws of the country. The Constitution expects the president to be someone with high moral standards, impeccable qualities and a leader who is beyond reproach.

It would be remiss not to expect the highest form of dignity and accountability from the president, as this position entrusts crucial responsibilities to the number one citizen.

The Constitution places great powers on the president. These include powers to sign important laws, appoint capable ministers, judges, heads of Chapter 9 institutions and implement the national laws. The executive authority to run the country is vested in the president.

The drafters of our Constitution never envisioned the president to be capable of being immoral, dishonest, involved in criminal activities, unaccountable and breaking the laws of the land.

It’s this very Constitution that the president has been entrusted to protect and defend, but he himself is assaulting it. Ramaphosa himself has admitted before parliament that he kept large sums of cash in foreign currency on his farm.

Did he declare to the Reserve Bank the $20-million foreign currency he had kept under his mattresses? Did he pay the taxes due to Sars? And why did he conceal the crime which happened on his farm two years ago, which we only came to know about from the whistle-blower? These are undoubtedly pertinent questions that should be asked of the president. The Constitution demands that he be answerable.

This is the president, who has at every opportunity evaded questions about the criminal activities in his own farm. He is hell-bent on keeping the public in the dark regarding his suspicious dealings, to the point where he had to be threatened with a subpoena by the deputy public protector to answer questions. In the question and answer session in parliament on 30 August, he blatantly refused to answer a question on the Phala Phala robbery, even though the Constitution and rules of parliament compel him to answer questions put to him by members of parliament.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that the president doesn’t want citizens to know what really happened on his farm. This is against the background of grave allegations that suggest kidnappings, torture and sanctioning of state resources to illegally hunt down the alleged robbers all the way to Namibia.

The plot thickens. This is as the media reports that Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala manager, mysteriously only opened the case of housebreaking and robbery in August this year. This is more than two years after the robbery occurred. Such misguided and desperate stunts should call for urgent prosecution for defeating the ends of justice.

Did Ramaphosa deliberately lie under oath in parliament in September, when he told the nation that he didn’t waste time to report the robbery to the police when it happened on his farm two years ago?

There is consensus that Ramaphosa is no longer fit to lead. He has failed to give direction to the country. He has plunged South Africa into darkness, with the worst and most costly load-shedding ever. The economy is ailing, unemployment is skyrocketing, crime is out of control and poverty and inequalities have deepened.

There is more than prima facie evidence that shows that Ramaphosa has violated the Constitution and has abused his own powers while in office. 

Why would the president keep more than R300-million in cash under his mattresses as opposed to keeping it in a safe? Could this be the proceeds of crime which facilitated money laundering? Up until now, Ramaphosa has failed to submit documented proof to show the transactions were above board.

The president faces serious allegations which he must answer to. These include that he violated Section 96 (2)(a) of the Constitution which prohibits him from doing paid work as a member of the cabinet. He publicly announced that this was a commercial transaction where he sold livestock and game. He even went further to explain that these transactions were either in cash or transfers.

The president is in violation of Section 96 (2)(b) of the Constitution, where he put himself in a situation that exposed him to the risk of a conflict of interest between his official duty versus his private interests. He did this by instructing a government official charged to look after his personal safety to instead investigate the burglary on his private farm.

The president is also in breach of another provision of Section 96 (2)(b) of misconduct. He is found wanting for having given an unlawful instruction to the head of the presidential protection unit, General Wally Rhoode, to investigate a burglary instead of instructing him to report the matter to the Hawks as required by the law.

Ramaphosa violated Section 34(1) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which enjoins everyone to report theft or corruption where the amount exceeds R100 000.

Ramaphosa has no moral standing to be still in office. He is attempting to subvert the Constitution by trying to usurp the powers of the public protector, lying under oath, abusing his powers to try to hide the alleged criminal activities he is involved in and by refusing to be transparent and accountable to parliament.

All these charges constitute the grounds for the removal of the president in terms of Section 89(1) of the Constitution. This is the only way to truly hold Ramaphosa accountable, lest we go down a perilous path that will erode our democratic principles and constitutionalism.

Vuyo Zungula is an MP and the president of the African Transformation Movement

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.