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ANC blocks debate on Parliament's role in holding Ramaphosa to account - for now

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ANC blocks debate on Parliament's role in holding Ramaphosa to account - for now

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

22nd September 2022

By: News24Wire

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The African National Congress (ANC) temporarily scuppered a debate on Parliament's role in holding the president accountable, which the Democratic Alliance (DA) had wanted for Thursday.

After a National Assembly Programming Committee on Thursday morning, the debate will, however, be rescheduled for next week.

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The DA previously brought a topic for debate on illegal land invasions for one of Thursday's mini-plenaries.

On Friday, the DA's chief whip, Siviwe Gwarube, indicated the party was withdrawing this motion, and replacing it with the motion on Parliament's role in holding the president accountable.

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It would include a motion to establish an ad hoc committee to look into Phala Phala.

The new topic of the DA's motion was distributed to all parties on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Chief Whips' Forum met.

There was a disagreement among parties on what transpired at this meeting.

According to Gwarube, the new topic for the debate was on the programme and, while there was "discomfort" from the ANC, no one objected.

ANC MP and Cyril Ramaphosa's parliamentary counsellor, Gerhard Koornhof, said that, to his "recollection", there was no recommendation from the forum to amend the programme.

On why the debate shouldn't be scheduled for Thursday afternoon, the ANC said that it was too short notice to prepare for it, and that it was a draft motion.

Gwarube pointed out that the ANC's objections were inconsistent.

The ANC's deputy chief whip, Doris Dlakude, said Gwarube "smuggled" the motion into Wednesday's forum, and that the DA was trying to "pre-empt" the Section 89 process.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) MP Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi, African Transformation Movement leader Vuyolwethu Zungula and African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart backed Gwarube, indicating that they were ready for the debate to proceed.

Mkhaliphi and Zungula pointed out that there was a difference between the Section 89 process and the DA's proposed ad hoc committee.

The ANC was backed by Al Jamah-ah's sole MP, Ganief Hendricks.

As the committee couldn't reach a consensus, National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula instructed the programming whip, ANC MP Mina Lesoma, to find a place for the DA's motion on next week's programme.

In a statement released after the meeting, Gwarube regarded Mapisa-Nqakula's decision as a victory for parliamentary oversight in the face of the "ANC's blatant attempts to circumvent Parliament's constitutional responsibilities to hold the government and President Ramaphosa accountable".

As she did during the meeting, Gwarube insisted the motion was brought within the National Assembly's rules.

"We are ready for next week's debate, and will lobby all political parties represented in the Assembly to support our call for this ad hoc committee to be established. Once the debate takes place, the House will need to vote on whether the ad hoc committee should be established," said Gwarube.

"While the Section 89 Inquiry, in the process of being established by the Speaker, will interrogate whether or not impeachment proceedings should be instituted against the president, it does not mean we should not be investigating the other state institutions that are implicated in this saga.

"There are ministers and state institutions who have a case to answer for in Parliament. This is a serious constitutional obligation that Parliament cannot neglect like it did during state capture."

Meanwhile, Mapisa-Nqakula indicated that she obtained a legal opinion after the EFF and DA asked her to reconsider Professor Richard Calland's participation on the independent panel to determine whether there was a prima facie case for Ramaphosa's impeachment.

The parties questioned Calland's impartiality, as he had previously expressed support for Ramaphosa.

Mapisa-Nqakula said GOOD, who nominated Calland for the panel, wrote to her with a motivation on why he should stay on the panel.

She requested a legal opinion, which she received on Wednesday afternoon, and will announce her decision on Friday, she said.

Next Thursday, Ramaphosa will be having his second question session with the National Assembly this term. 

At the previous question session last month, Ramaphosa refused to answer a question on Phala Phala.

The supplementary questions that weren't asked on that day, as the sitting collapsed, will be asked at the next question session.

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