The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (scopa) has decided not to invite President Cyril Ramaphosa to appear before the committee to respond to allegations that public funds are being used for ANC campaigns.
‘Treat us like children’
Ramaphosa’s answers to Scopa’s questions, as well as a legal opinion written by Parliament’s legal service, were presented to the committee during a meeting on Wednesday evening.
After a back-and-forth, a majority of members in the committee decided not to invite Ramaphosa.
Scopa opted against Calling Ramaphosa because the president has shown no intention of not cooperating with the commission.
In the proceedings, six MPs voted not to invite Ramaphosa against the four MPs – including Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Veronica Mente – who wanted the president to appear before the committee.
Mente indicated that the EFF would “explore other avenues” to hold the president accountable.
“I take note of the outcome and would like to record that we, as the EFF, will explore other avenues to address this particular issue of a person who can be shielded from liability by the majority,” she said.
Earlier in the meeting, Mente criticized Ramaphosa’s responses after the president explained that he relied on public information for his audio comments.
“The response has been nothing short of mocking us. [The president] is treating us like children or sort of as if we are people who have absolutely nothing to do, but are pursuing a futile endeavor by asking people who make it their business to say things they don’t want to elaborate on.
“Not the response here [deal with] what was said in the recording and in its context [as well]† The president says ‘we all know’, he doesn’t know ‘we have all heard’ that public money is being spent on our problems as the ANC,” she said.
ANC Scopa members said the commission must wait for the commission of inquiry into allegations of Capture state to release its final report — due in late February — to see what it says about the State Security Service (SSA).
“Why would you want to take someone with you sooner? [us], who gave you a written response? Let’s accept that we tried. We have the answers,” said ANC MP Nokuzola Tolashe.
Last year, the Acting Director General of SSA, Loyiso Jafta told the committee that the government agency’s money was being used to fund ANC campaigns ahead of the party’s 2017 Nasrec election conference.
Jafta claimed that an amount of R125 million could not be accounted for in the 2017-2018 financial year.
Meanwhile, Scopa chairman Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the committee would review the legal advice and establish “an operational framework” to pave a way forward.
†[We will] put that to the committee next week or probably earlier and then we will know how we are going to tackle this issue. The legal opinion is broad and offers a variety of options,” he said.
According to the legal opinionScopa has the mandate to investigate Ramaphosa’s comments “if, indeed, public funds of any government department or public entity had been used for unauthorized purposes”.
However, the commission cannot “handle the president’s alleged ethical violations” as only public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane can determine whether Ramaphosa has broken the law.
It is not within Scopa’s mandate to consider Ramaphosa’s conduct or that he failed to share information with the State Capture Commission, as alleged.
Public protector probe
Dirks argued in his court documents that he was merely fulfilling his oversight role as an MP by holding the executive to account.
The MP – who also faces disciplinary proceedings – filed a complaint with the Public Prosecution Service to investigate the matter.
Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe confirmed in a rack that the public protector will investigate the alleged violation of the Executive Code of Ethics against Ramaphosa after it received the complaint.
Segalwe further indicated that the investigation would be completed within 30 days, in accordance with the Executive Members Ethics Act 82 of 1998 (EMEA).