Phala Phala: Ramaphosa's court challenge does not prevent National Assembly from considering report

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
PHOTO: Deaan Vivier
  • Nothing stops Parliament from voting on whether the Phala Phala report should be adopted or not.
  • Concerns were raised that the matter may become sub judice after President Cyril Ramaphosa legally challenged the report.
  • On Tuesday, the National Assembly will vote on whether to adopt the panel's report.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's application to legally challenge the Section 89 panel report on Phala Phala won't prevent Parliament from proceeding with a possible impeachment process.

This was the conclusion of Parliament's legal advisors after several questions were raised about Ramaphosa's latest legal moves.

In a letter to National Assembly (NA) Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the institution's legal advisor, Zuraya Adhikarie, said Ramaphosa's pending application did implicate the sub judice rule.

READ | Phala Phala: Ramaphosa facing opposition hellbent on his impeachment

"This creates a practical challenge of managing the debate. However, this cannot be an absolute bar to the National Assembly deciding whether to proceed with a Section 89 inquiry and whether or not to refer the matter to an Impeachment Committee," Adhikarie said.

Adhikarie said it was, however, permissible for the NA to consider the fact that the president had launched a review application in determining its way forward.

"Therefore, in light of the above, we advise that the launch of the president's review application, unless an interdict was obtained, would not preclude the National Assembly from considering whether to proceed with a Section 89 inquiry and refer the matter to an Impeachment Committee," Adhikarie said.

Furthermore, Adhikarie said the sub judice rule in NA rule 89 did not preclude it (the National Assembly) from considering the matter.

"It precludes the National Assembly from reflecting on the merits. This is to prevent the National Assembly from influencing or affecting the outcome of the matter that is already pending before the court. However, the current matter is distinguishable, as it was initiated in terms of the NA rules and was serving before it when the president launched his review application. It is, therefore, our view that NA rule 89 does not bar the National Assembly from proceeding," she said.

Adhikarie said the independence of the courts and their function to adjudicate matters was of paramount importance.

READ | Phala Phala: It's all political, says Sudanese businessman who now wants refund

"However, the application of the sub judice rule in the parliamentary context requires a balancing of the constitutional directive to respect the independence of the courts and the necessity to ensure that Parliament does not relinquish its own constitutionally mandated responsibilities. Deference to the courts cannot result in an absolute bar on Parliament from dealing with matters solely because it is pending adjudication," she said.

In its report, the independent Section 89 panel found that the president had constitutional questions to answer regarding his actions following the burglary at his Phala Phala farm in February 2020.

On Tuesday, the NA will vote on whether to adopt the panel's report.

Ramaphosa has been under pressure following the release of the panel's report, which made damning findings against him concerning the theft of US$580 000 (about R10 million) from his game farm in Limpopo.

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