Speech by Cyril Xaba - National Assembly Mini Plenary debate on the motion of the DA calling for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to investigate matters surrounding the Phala Phala game farm theft
27 September 2022.
Mr Cyril Xaba - ANC Member of Parliament.
When dealing with a matter like this, we should be guided by the principles of law and facts.
Our democratic system is premised on the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Chapter Two of the Constitution under the Bill of Rights, provides in section 9 on equality that 'Everyone is equal before the law and has a right to equal protection and benefit of the law'.
This principle of equality before the law and the protection and benefit of the law, equally applies to the President!
So, when we deal with this matter, it is important that we should allow the law to take its cause and that we respect the Constitutional rights of the President.
As legislators we took the Oath or solemn Affirmation, amongst other things that 'we will obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other law of the Republic'.
It is us as Members of Parliament who must lead and encourage the nation to obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and other laws of the Republic.
Therefore, this requires that at all material times, we should be consistent in upholding this Oath or Solemn affirmation. We cannot and must not be party to any view that seek to subject the President to a different treatment in law.
As we said that this matter requires reference to law and facts as opposed to what we wish to be the desired outcome. The facts are that a burglary is confirmed to have happened at the President's game farm, and that a case of money laundering, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping has been opened at the Rosebank Police Station.
Again, the fact is that the South African Reserve Bank's financial surveillance department is probing allegations related to the matter of foreign-exchange transactions related to the burglary at the President's game farm.
The fact is that when this matter of the allegations of break-in and theft at the Presidents' game farm in Limpopo province was brought before the law enforcement agencies, the Presidency released a press statement on the 2nd of June 2022 that 'President Ramaphosa stands ready to cooperate with any law enforcement investigation of these matters.
This is a principled stance by the President and is consistent with the Oath of Affirmation he took as the President of the Republic that he will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic.
The fact is that the Public Protector is investigating the theft that took place at the Presidents' game farm. And the spokesperson of the Public Protector is on record having said that:
"the Constitution prohibits any interference with the functioning of the institution. The PPSA, therefore, views the actions of those exerting pressure on the institution to publish the evidence in question while the investigation is underway as constituting the interference contemplated in the Constitution and calls upon them to desist from such conduct."
Therefore, as lawmakers, we are expected to ensure that the concern raised by the Public Protector about undue pressure and 'interference' in the work of the public protector is condemned as it falls outside our constitution and the law.
It is a fact that the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence has investigated certain allegations pertaining to the alleged involvement of the Deputy Minister responsible for State Security as well as the alleged abuse of State Secret Crime Intelligence Fund. These allegations were dismissed as rumours. The Committee found that there was 'no independently verifiable information to support the allegations'.
As the ANC, we understand that Parliament from time to time will establish Adhoc Committees to deal with critical matters of oversight. However, this depends on the facts and is dealt with on case-by-case basis.
Parliament has a history of establishing Adhoc Committees and it will continue to establish Ad hoc Committees when circumstances allow. The case of the Adhoc Committee on natural disaster in KZN, Eastern Cape and North West provinces is a case in point.
The 5th Parliament established Adhoc Committees to deal with the challenges of SABC and Eskom, but not as the first port of call. Parliament then through its Portfolio Committees undertook inquiries as part of oversight and evidence emerged and justified the establishment of an Adhoc Committee with specific terms of reference. In this case of the burglary at the President's game farm, Parliament does not have the facts.
Consistent with the practice, our view as the ANC is that we must allow the process to ventilate fully, so that the facts are fully established by the agencies with the necessary capacity. It is the first a matter received so much interest and faces multi-layered investigations.
In addition, the Speaker, after consultation with the party leaders, has established a Panel of experts which will conduct a preliminary inquiry into whether, in fact, there is prima facie evidence to sustain the motion that grounds exist to initiate the impeachment process of the President. The panel will assess all evidence placed before it and submit to Parliament its findings and recommendations.
The argument that the Section 89 process is 'limited in its scope' on this matter and that the Panel will not delve into the many questions that the DA says remain unanswered, is rejected.
The recommended process will ultimately result in a Parliamentary Committee process that will look into all other issues, with powers to subpoena anyone it deems holds information that will assist it to do justice in the matter, but that only if the Panel makes a determination that prima facie evidence exists to suggest that there is a case to answer.
The Committee will thereafter report its finding and recommendations to this House. It is a matter of sequencing the steps, while Parliament gets on with its job. If the DA has forgotten, go and read the December, 2017 Constitutional Court judgement which brought the section 89 process into sharp focus. The DA's suggested process is the pre-emptive view that gives no regards to the terms of reference of the Panel and will cause an unnecessary stampede.
In short, our argument is that the call for Parliament to establish an Adhoc Committee on this matter is to jump the gun. Our plea is that let us allow the due the process of law to take its course.
The public must not forget that he who accuses must prove and that the accused must be held to account in proper forums, with due regard to the rules of natural justice.