The ANC Parliamentary Caucus has welcomed the outcome of the vote in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday regarding the report of the Independent Panel established to conduct a preliminary enquiry which could have lead to the impeachment of President Cyril Ramaphosa. Most of the lawmakers voted to reject the report into alleged misconduct by the SA president.
“The NA has voted overwhelmingly, with 214 Members of Parliament against, 2 abstentions and 148 in support of the recommendation of the Independent Panel to appoint an Adhoc Committee to commence a section 89 impeachment inquiry based on the allegations against President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa,” said the ANC in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“We are pleased that the NA has refused to yield to the spurious and mischeavous demands of some opposition parties who wished to achieve their stated political objective to unseat the Head of State and the ANC led government through the backdoor.”
The caucus accused the Independent Panel of reaching its conclusions based on a “dangerously low threshold of evidence”.
Supporters celebrated after the result was announced, singing in Sotho: “Ramaphosa we all love you. We are walking side by side with you.”
The outcome of the vote puts Ramaphosa in a stronger position to secure re-election as ANC leader at a party contest starting on Friday, and to run for a second term as head of state at a 2024 election.
Ramaphosa’s political future had been hanging in the balance earlier this month, after the report by a panel of experts found preliminary evidence he may have violated the constitution over a stash of foreign currency hidden at his private game farm, Phala Phala.
Ramaphosa has denied wrongdoing over the scandal, which has been dubbed “Farmgate” by the media, and challenged the report in court. He has not been charged with any crime, but some opponents have called for his resignation.
While 214 out of 400 lawmakers in the National Assembly, where the ANC has a majority, voted against setting up an impeachment committee, five ANC members were among the 148 lawmakers who voted in favour, disobeying instructions from the ANC’s national executive. Two lawmakers abstained from voting and many others were absent.
Farmgate broke in June when South Africa’s former spy chief, Arthur Fraser, told police that thieves had raided Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala game farm in February 2020, and had stolen at least $4 million in foreign cash found hidden in the furniture.
The theft raised questions about how Ramaphosa, who came to power on a promise to fight graft, had acquired the money and whether he had declared it.
Ramaphosa has said a much smaller amount of money than that reported had been taken and that it was the proceeds of game sales. Contrary to allegations, he also said he reported the theft when he heard about it.
During the debate on the report, ANC speakers also argued that the requirement to proceed with an impeachment inquiry is that sufficient evidence must be established. This is a higher threshold test than prima facie evidence.
“We argued that it would be inappropriate for the NA to appoint an Adhoc Committee to search for evidence in the hope that they might find grounds to impeach the President while several government institutions were still conducting investigations on the same matter.
“These institutions should be given space and time to complete their investigations. The outcomes of these investigations will give the NA a firm legal basis to make an informed decision rather than the hearsay evidence that the panel relied on.
“The ANC Parliamentary Caucus considered the President’s application to the Constitutional Court to review the independent panel’s report. However, we noted that this did not stop the NA from discussing the issue guided by the Constitution and its rules,” said the caucus.
Sources: ANC, Reuters