Probe into Ramaphosa’s role in Phala Phala could spell political chaos

Will President Cyril Ramaphosa be the first sitting head of the state in the country’s history to be removed through an impeachment process?

With the Parliamentary investigation into President Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the Phala Phala scandal due to conclude on Friday, the country could be plunged into unprecedented political upheaval should the probe find against him.

The investigation, which is being conducted by an independent panel established by Parliament a month ago, could lead to Parliament resolving to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president if the panel makes findings against him.

Impeachment proceedings could result in removal of Ramaphosa

The impeachment proceedings could result in the removal of Ramaphosa, who would be the first sitting head of the state in the country’s history to be removed in that fashion.

However, constitutional law expert Professor Karthy Govender said even if the panel were to find against Ramaphosa, MPs still have to decide whether to go ahead with impeachment proceedings against him.

“What the panel is currently engaged in is a preliminary investigation to establish whether the president has a case to answer. Ultimately, it’s Parliament which can decide whether there is a need to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.”

For Ramaphosa to be removed as the country’s president through an impeachment process, two thirds of Parliament’s 400 MPs should vote in favour of his removal.

Parliamentary processes which could result in Ramaphosa’s impeachment were initiated by the ATM political party, whose position that Parliament should hold him to account in relation to the Phala Phala matter is being backed by several opposition parties in Parliament.

While Ramaphosa’s ANC controls the majority of the seats in Parliament, the ATM and other opposition parties such as the EFF, are hoping that some ANC MPs, particularly those opposed to his bid to serve as party president for a second term, would turn against him.

Should Parliament resolve that impeachment proceedings against Ramaphosa should go ahead, he could be forced to step down before the proceedings are concluded.

This is because the ANC’s step-aside rules which are enforced by the ruling party’s integrity commission, stipulate that a party leader who is the subject of processes such as impeachment should appear before the commission, which has the power to recommend that he should step aside pending the finalisation of the impeachment process.

Phala Phala scandal has brought ANC into disrepute

In its recent preliminary report, the ANC integrity commission found that the Phala Phala scandal has brought the ruling party into disrepute.

However, Dr Llewelyn Curlewis, another legal expert, said the ANC integrity commission’s Phala Phala findings had no bearing on the independent panel’s probe.

“Such findings are regarded by the independent panel as hearsay evidence. It’s inadmissible evidence — the panel, which is independent, will only rely on statements submitted to it to reach a decision.”

On whether the 30 days which Parliament gave the panel to complete the investigation was enough, particularly in light of the fact that some legal experts have described the Phala Phala saga as ‘complex’, Curlewis said it was possible for the panel to meet the deadline.

“Also, if for whatever reason the panel fails to meet the deadline, it can request for an extension from Parliament.”

The panel, which is chaired by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo concludes its investigation at a time when the ANC leadership contest is intensifying ahead of the party’s crucial December national elective conference.

Ramaphosa, who, since the Phala Phala scandal broke, has maintained his innocence, is facing a challenge from a number of prominent ANC members, including former health minister Zweli Mkhize, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu — all of who are vying for the party’s president position at the ANC elective conference next month.

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