Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Public Protector’s findings are irrational’: ATM files papers to set aside Phala Phala report

The ATM wants the court to review and set aside parts of the report which cleared Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing.

The African Transformation Movement (ATM) has approached the courts to challenge the Public Protector’s contested report on the Phala Phala scandal.

ATM president Vuyolwethu Zungula filed the party’s papers in the Pretoria High Court sitting on Monday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa, Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka and Democratic Alliance (DA) John Steenhuisen being cited as respondents in the application.

Gcaleka recently cleared Ramaphosa of wrongdoing in relation to the burglary at his Phala Phala farm, where millions of rand were stolen during a burglary in February 2020.

The Public Protector report concluded the allegations Ramaphosa had violated the Executive Ethics Code and there was a conflict of interest between his business dealings and his constitutional obligations was “not substantiated”.

‘Flawed, irrational’

The ATM rejected Gcaleka’s findings, arguing in their court papers the Public Protector’s conclusion the president did not undertake “any other paid work” was flawed, irrational and unlawful.

“The Acting Public Protector’s report dismisses the president’s involvement in the business operations of the Phala Phala farm, citing reasons such as the absence of a salary from Ntaba Nyoni CC and physical absence from the farm.

ALSO READ: ‘Don’t insult the Public Protector’: Mbalula tells Phala Phala detractors ‘put facts before a judge’

“However, we argue the Acting Public Protector ignored the clear evidence before her that the president is directly involved in the operations of Phala Phala,” ATM spokesperson Zama Ntshona said in a statement.

Ntshona said Ramaphosa himself had admitted to be involved in the business operations of the Phala Phala farm by sourcing buyers for his buffalo.

“Additionally, we are of the view the Acting Public Protector’s refusal to investigate potential tax violations or exchange control violations by the president was unlawful.”

ATM questions Gcaleka’s independence

The party, which initially lodged a complaint with the Public Protector’s office, has since asked the Pretoria High Court to declare parts of the Phala Phala report inconsistent with the Constitution, and subsequently declared invalid.

The party also wants the court to review and set aside parts of the report which exonerated Ramaphosa.

“The Acting Public Protector possesses the authority to conduct such investigations and lacks the discretion to decline an investigation when empowered to do so,” Ntshona continued.

READ MORE: ‘Phala Phala videos’ not from Ramaphosa’s farm, says acting public protector

“It is surprising the Acting Public Protector elected to abandon her investigation in respect of the lax and exchange control violations midway through her investigation.”

The ATM further accused Gcaleka of not giving the party an opportunity to respond to the Public Protector report findings.

“She did not give the ATM an opportunity to comment on her decision to do so, and her failure to carry out a full investigation raises serious concerns about her independence.

“It was irrational for the Acting Public Protector to reach a conclusion exonerating the president without obtaining the tax records of Ntaba Nyoni, as these records are relevant and essential in determining the complaint against him.”

‘Whitewash’ and a ‘pro-Ramaphosa PR exercise’

Last month, Steenhuisen labelled the Phala Phala report as a “whitewash” and a “pro-Ramaphosa PR exercise”.

He indicated the DA would consider taking the report on review because Gcaleka had apparently misinterpreted the law.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) rejected the report, saying it was not “worth the paper it is written on” and the party would consult with its lawyers.

NOW READ: Phala Phala report: Ramaphosa cleared but questions linger

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