Revolutionary Speaking – President’s Weekly Column – Volume 1 Issue 7

Vol 1: Issue 7
18 November 2022
By the look of things, the South African democracy is not only fledgling; it does not seem to have effectively taken off the ground after 28 years.  To be sure, there is a universal franchise in which the citizens vote every five years to choose a government.  However, it takes more than a universal franchise for a country to be a fully-fledged democracy that is progressively functional.
Apart from the Bill of Rights freedoms and social justice, good governance has to be one of the pivotal ingredients of a functional and vibrant democracy.  South Africa has been caught offside a number of times when it comes to the principle and value of good governance.  Good governance generally refers to the progressive mode in which public institutions conduct public affairs and responsibly manage public resources to develop both the citizens and the country.  This takes place without the abuse of State power and corruption.
This brings me to the Phala Phala scandal, which implicates the Head of State Cyril Ramaphosa in a manner that calls his integrity into question.  The President of a country should be so exemplary that his integrity should be beyond reproach.  At the present moment, Ramaphosa leads with a dark cloud hovering over his head with regards to the Phala Phala scandal.  In addition, he is consistently and stubbornly refusing to take the nation into his confidence.  What kind of a leader is this? The President is the first among equals from whom all other leaders should take their cue.  By the same token, our children should look up to the President and say, “I want to be like him”.
The Phala Phala scandal is at the heart of governance.  It is a further test to South Africa about how strong and effective are our public institutions in propelling good governance forward.
However, it is now public knowledge that a robbery took place in 2020 at Ramaphosa’s Phala Phala farm in Bela Bela in Limpopo.  Foreign currency stacked in furniture and mattresses was allegedly stolen by foreign nationals connected to a domestic worker on the farm.  While serving as the Head of State, Ramaphosa admitted to directly doing business and attributed the stolen US Dollars as the proceeds of the game he is selling on his farm. 
The ANC NEC, which has just emerged from a 3-day meeting, told the media this week that Ramaphosa briefed it about the Phala Phala shenanigans.  However, the NEC did not mince its words when it told the public that such a briefing remains confidential.  It seems the ruling party has either forgotten, or it never knew anything about the principles of good governance.  How can a Head of State and his party continue to keep the nation in the dark and in limbo about matters that besmirch the integrity of the country’s leader?  You will do well to recall that Ramaphosa was the first to refuse to take the nation and Parliament into confidence about the crime that took place in his private business place.  Instead, he promised to brief the law enforcement agencies, whose bosses are accountable to him as the Head of State.
Outrageously, the ruling party is continuing its stance to shield Ramaphosa from accountability.  This deliberate and parochial frustrating of democracy has been happening for the past 28 years.  Parliament, whose Speaker was an ANC leader and the overwhelming majority being ANC leaders, filibustered and defended former ANC leader and Head of State Jacob Zuma against eight motions of no confidence.  Some “expert” bodies even publicly demonstrated that Zuma’s swimming pool was “a fire pool”.  At some stage, Ramaphosa himself was part of the brigade that shielded Zuma from public scrutiny and accountability.  True to form, in September the ruling party made shameful attempts to block a Parliamentary ad hoc committee from investigating Ramaphosa.  They pushed a line that Ramaphosa could not be held liable for crime or wrongdoing that took place “not at his primary residence, but at his business premises”.  Like “a man of God” exorcising demons from a possessed congregant, ANC MP Mina Lesoma chanted:
“The DA-led coalition would like us ‘to investigate’ someone who is a victim of crime…  It gets even more peculiar.  They (DA) would like us to investigate, by and large, concerns of a juristic person.  Phala Phala Wildlife is a separate legal entity”.
What both Ramaphosa and his political party seem to forget is that it is more than the rule of law that is at stake in the Phala Phala scandal.  Of cardinal importance, we are here dealing with ethics.  Ramaphosa’s ethical leadership is under public scrutiny.  You cannot shield yourself against an ethics public enquiry by boasting that you are “innocent until proven guilty”.  It is an ethical matter, rather than a technical one.  The ethical question does not have to be “proven beyond any reasonable doubt”.  All a Head of State has to do is to call a media conference and take the nation into confidence about what took place in his private business.  Is it true that he is directly involved in private business?  Is it true that foreign currency was kept in furniture and mattresses without declaration to the Reserve Bank within the period allowed by law?  Is it true that, without reporting the crime to a police station, a police unit was unlawfully commanded to use State resources and investigate the theft of foreign currency up to foreign lands?
Despite the fact that the Phala Phala theft took place about two years ago, Ramaphosa has shocked the nation in missing deadlines and asking for extensions in responding to clear-cut questions from the Office of the Public Protector and the Reserve Bank.  Mind you, he suspended the Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane who compiled the questions, while Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka immediately became understanding and granted the extensions.
Meanwhile, an extension has been granted by Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to the panel conducting the preliminary investigations into the Phala Phala scandal under section 89 of the Constitution to determine the prevalence of the minimum conditions for an impeachment inquiry.  Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo is the leader of the panel.  The extension is based on the “amount of work” to be done.
Those who assume the highest office in the land should know that it goes with the highest responsibility.  An incumbent of that office should be armed with an integrity that is beyond reproach.  Once that integrity is stained, an incumbent should resign without being pushed.  Following his Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon resigned from office.  In July, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emailed his resignation from foreign land after fleeing rolling mass protests.