Phala Phala saga: Ramaphosa impeachment vote postponed to 13 December

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  • The vote on President Cyril Ramaphosa's impeachment has been postponed for a week.
  • This was the unanimous decision made at a "special" National Assembly Programming Committee meeting on Monday - 13 hours before the vote was scheduled to take place.
  • The vote will take place by open ballot.

The vote on whether the National Assembly should institute impeachment proceedings against President Cyril Ramaphosa over allegations relating to his Phala Phala farm has been postponed for a week.

At a hastily arranged "special" meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee at 21:00 on Monday – 13 hours before the vote was scheduled to take place – parties unanimously agreed that it should be postponed to 13 December.

EFF chief whip Floyd Shivambu said the matter should be convened at an in-person meeting, rather than a virtual one – so that all members are "under the protection of Parliament", unlike what transpired at a motion of no confidence earlier this year when all ANC MPs were "frogmarched" into a hotel conference room.

He said MPs represent the people and that Parliament has an obligation to create "safe spaces" for their voting.

"It is not safe to convene this forum – the meeting tomorrow – on the virtual platform," he said.

ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude took exception to Shivambu's assertion that they "frogmarched" MPs into one room to control how they voted.

She said many of their members did not live in cities and had connectivity issues. They accommodated everyone in Cape Town to prevent a situation in which they would not have been able to vote.

However, she supported the postponement and proposed that the meeting be held next Tuesday.

The other parties agreed that it should be moved and that the National Assembly should convene physically.

READ | ANC MPs must not support adoption of Section 89 panel report, says Mashatile

Tuesday's plenary will continue as planned.

However, at next Tuesday's plenary meeting, the impeachment vote will be the only item on the order paper.

National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula could not be persuaded to have the vote conducted by secret ballot.

ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula and UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa were concerned about what would happen if a venue could not be found.

On the other hand, secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, said they would start work on finding a suitable venue immediately after the meeting. MPs will not be able to connect to the meeting via the internet.

Chief parliamentary legal advisor, advocate Zuraya Adhikarie, said the legal challenge to the independent panel's report, which Ramaphosa lodged at the Constitutional Court, could not prevent the National Assembly from having the vote.

READ | DA wants Parliament dissolved, EFF files motion of no confidence as pressure piles on Ramaphosa

While the EFF often disparages parliamentary legal services when their opinions are not beneficial to the party, Shivambu found "comfort" in Adhikarie's opinion.

The EFF insisted that Parliament should oppose Ramaphosa's application.

Mapisa-Nqakula emphasised Parliament's sovereignty and said she was still taking advice on the matter.

She said: "Parliament cannot be stifled by another organ of state."

Last week, an independent panel appointed to probe whether there was a case for Ramaphosa to answer with regard to the Phala Phala allegations, recommended in a report that the National Assembly institute impeachment proceedings against him.

After a tense meeting and with most opposition parties smelling blood, the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) said on Monday that its MPs would be expected to vote against the motion. 

The motion was lodged by Zungula shortly after former spy boss Arthur Fraser opened a kidnapping and money laundering case against Ramaphosa, Presidential Protection Unit head, Major General Wally Rhoode, and Crime Intelligence members for allegedly concealing a burglary at the Phala Phala farm in February 2020.

Fraser opened the case on 1 June 2022.

According to Fraser's affidavit, Ramaphosa had at least $4 million in cash stashed in a couch at the farm – and then played a part in covering up an allegedly illegal investigation into the burglary.

In September, the ANC blocked a DA motion to establish an ad hoc committee to probe the Phala Phala affair.

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