Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

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

Some opposition parties are considering taking the Phala Phala report on review.

African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Fikile Mbalula says the ruling party has welcomed the Public Protector’s report into the Phala Phala farm scandal.

Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka on Friday cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of claims that he violated the Executive Members Ethics Code, much to the dissatisfaction of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and African Transformation Movement (ATM), who lodged a compliant over the 2020 Phala Phala burglary.

The Public Protector’s office investigated the matter following the revelation that $580 000 was stolen from the president’s farm in Limpopo when former State Security Agency (SSA) director-general, Arthur Fraser, laid criminal charges with the police in July last year.

‘Rule of law’

Speaking during his opening address of the ANC Youth League’s elective conference at Nasrec on Saturday, Mbalula said the governing party was “very happy” that Ramaphosa was exonerated by the Public Protector.

He said those who disagree with Gcaleka’s findings were “well within their rights” to approach the courts.

“You don’t insult her because she’s a woman… because you expected her to agree with you. You have to put the facts before a judge and challenge the outcome. That’s why the decisions of the Public Protector can be reviewed,” he said.

Mbalula pointed out that the ANC never insulted the suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane despite the courts overturning of several of her reports.

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“You know Mkhwebane’s decisions were taken to court. I have lost count on how many court cases she lost and how much money she’s got in the bank to pay for all those cases. But the ANC has never said the Public Protector must be dealt with otherwise. The Public Protector must be respected,” he continued.

Mbalula insisted that the ANC respected the outcome of the courts even when the judgements weren’t favourable.

“Even judgments that are against and don’t favour us, they are always underlined by the respect for the rule of law. We respect the outcome of the courts, but nonetheless we will take them on review, we don’t attack judges personally.

“Of course, there is a period in time where comrades attacked judges personally and we called order. Judges are not demigods. You can differ with them and their judgments can also be challenged in the court of law and that’s why you have got recourse up until the apex court. The rule of law teaches us hat we must respect the organs of the state,” he added.

‘Pro-Ramaphosa PR exercise’

Reacting to the Public Protector’s findings on Friday, DA leader John Steenhuisen labelled the Phala Phala report as a “whitewash” and a “pro-Ramaphosa PR exercise”.

Steenhuisen said the DA was considering taking the report on review because Gcaleka had misinterpreted the law.

“Gcaleka has muddied the waters of a matter to which South Africans still do not have any clear answers,” he said in a statement.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also rejected the report, saying it was not “worth the paper it is written on”.

“The EFF will convene with our legal team to weigh available options, including but not limited to, a review of the report,” the party’s statement reads.

Meanwhile, ATM leader Vuyolwethu Zungula confirmed his party would approach the courts “with the aim of reviewing this report by the acting Public Protector and having it set aside”.

“The president has to account for his crimes in Phala Phala and we will not rest until he does,” said Zungula.

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