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Ramaphosa in big court setback

by Staff reporter
01 Mar 2023 at 19:03hrs | Views
South Africa's Constitutional Court on Wednesday slapped down President Cyril Ramaphosa's bid to have the apex court review a report which found evidence he may have committed misconduct over a stash of cash stolen from his game farm.

The report by a panel of experts appointed by the speaker of parliament centred on allegations that thieves had found millions of dollars of cash stuffed into furniture in the millionaire president's Phala Phala game farm in 2020 and taken it, a theft which only came to light in June.

The theft has raised questions about how Ramaphosa, who came to power on the promise to fight graft, acquired the money and whether he declared it amid demands for his resignation from opposition parties.

Ramaphosa, who has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes, had taken up the report by the panel which included the former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo on review, challenging its findings. The Constitutional Court has now refused to hear him on a special access basis.

The Constitutional Court, in a ruling on Wednesday, said it had "considered the application brought by way of exclusive jurisdiction or, alternatively, by way of direct access and the application to intervene" but it had "concluded that no case has been made out for exclusive jurisdiction or direct access and the main application must be dismissed."

The main opposition Democratic Alliance said the judgement "confirms that his matter can only be fully investigated, to the necessary extent, by the National Assembly in the form of an ad hoc committee."

"As we have previously argued, the Phala Phala scandal does not begin and end with the president, and as such, it necessitates an ad hoc committee that will have the full powers to summon and investigate cabinet ministers, law enforcement bodies, and other state institutions allegedly involved in this cover up," the DA said.

"An ad hoc committee is the route that parliament should have followed when this scandal first broke. And the first witness that must be called by this committee is Cyril Ramaphosa himself. It is highly irresponsible conduct by the president to bat the Phala Phala scandal between parliament and the courts all in an attempt to evade difficult questions and full transparency and accountability."

The party said Ramaphosa's court application to have the findings by the panel set aside were "a desperate attempt to save his political skin."

"Now that this attempt has been unanimously dismissed by the highest court in the land, it is time for the president to finally tell the full truth about Phala Phala. Instead of employing the Stalingrad tactics made famous by his predecessor (Jacob Zuma), through launching yet another application in a different court, President Ramaphosa needs to take the country into his confidence about what truly transpired at Phala Phala in Parliament, the body to which he is constitutionally obligated to account."

Ramaphosa has said a much smaller amount of money – the proceeds of game sales – was taken and that he reported the crime when he heard about it.

The report has plunged the governing African National Congress (ANC) into crisis, but the party's MPs backed the president when an impeachment motion was tabled in parliament.

The corruption findings also threaten Ramaphosa's efforts to rekindle investor confidence in Africa's most industrialised economy, after a decade of corruption scandals under former president Zuma.

A spokesperson for elite police unit the Hawks said its investigation into the theft at Ramaphosa's farm was continuing, while the central bank said it did not comment on exchange control investigations.

Source - Reuters