by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – IT may be far-fetched to suggest that alleged death threats against some Members of Parliament (MPs) saved President Cyril Ramaphosa from impeachment by the National Assembly.
This though is a gory dimension to his remaining in office amid a dark cloud hanging over him for his Farmgate Scandal.
By surviving an impeachment vote, Ramaphosa lives to fight another day but the fact that some MPs refused to toe the party line, and voted in favour of a motion to impeach him, points to a bruising battle he faces when the governing African National Congress (ANC) convenes at the end of this week for its elective congress.
Tuesday was the latest in a series of lately dramatic days in the increasingly vile South African politics as legislators convened in Parliament to debate the impeachment of the now-controversial head of state.
Disturbingly, before proceedings could begin inside the Cape Town Hall (the National Assembly convenes there since Parliament was partially burnt by an alleged arsonist) it emerged some MPs had received death threats.
Death threats were directed at Bantu Holomisa, president of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Mzwanele Nyhontso, leader of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC).
“We are warning you, Holomisa and Nyhontso,” read the message made available to the media.
“Should you back the African Transformation Movement (ATM) vote or motion tomorrow (Tuesday), we will deal with you. Your days of living are numbered.”
Police have opened investigations.
This is how Ramaphosa’s stay in office has degenerated into a matter of life and death.
Opposition MPs thus called for a secret ballot owing to the apparent danger but Speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, declined.
She is a member of the ANC.
“The Speaker acted irrationally and recklessly. She ignored death threats to Members of Parliament,” Mzwanele Manyi, spokesperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.
“She ignored livelihood threats to members of Parliament. She ignored her Constitutional responsibility to protect the members who wanted to vote according to their conscience,” Manyi said.
Zuma is Ramaphosa’s predecessor.
Eventually, 214 legislators voted against (No) and 148 voted in favour (Yes) of the impeachment of Ramaphosa.
In the end, he had to thank the ANC’s majority in the House.
The party, in power since majority rule in 1994, had warned its legislators to toe the party line or risk expulsion.
That the ANC is torn along factional lines is an open secret but in Parliament, it has a knack of standing behind its leaders.
But some ANC members defied the directive, adding drama to the proceedings at the National Assembly.
The five include Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa’s main challenger at the last in-house presidential election in 2017, when she narrowly lost.
“As a disciplined member of the ANC, I vote Yes,” she declared.
Fellow party MPs were stunned. There were cheers from the opposition benches.
Other ANC legislators Mervyn Dirks, Thandi Mahambehlala, Supra Mahumapelo and Mosebenzi Zwane also voted in favour of the impeachment.
Prominent members, Zweli Mkhize, Ramaphosa’s main challenger in the upcoming ANC conference, and Lindiwe Sisulu, who wanted the president to step down, appeared not to be in Parliament for the vote.
Sacky Elago, the social justice activist, said Dlamini- Zuma’s decision to vote against the party’s mandate and support further investigation into the Phala Phala saga was courageous.
“This serves as a reminder to all young politicians that we must always remain principled, even if it means foregoing perks,” he said.
Phala Phala is Ramaphosa’s farm at the centre of the controversy afflicting him.
Tuesday’s vote followed an independent panel, chaired by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, which established that the president had a case to answer regarding the theft, in 2020, of foreign currency stashed in a couch at the game farm.
Ramaphosa was on the verge of resigning but reportedly changed his mind after advisors influenced him to change. He has appealed the panel’s findings.
Arthur Fraser, former spy boss, laid a criminal complaint alleging that U$4 million was stashed at the president’s farm.
It is alleged the theft was not reported to law enforcers but suspects supposedly involved in the theft were allegedly kidnapped and interrogated at the farm.
They were later allegedly paid off not to reveal the incidents.
This past weekend, Fraser alleged an assassination plot against him since the expose.
The death threats are reminiscent of the runup to the 2017 elective conference of the ANC.
This brought to the fore the divisions rocking Africa’s oldest liberation movement, founded in 1912.
Ramaphosa eventually won on a pledge to fight corruption, a promise he made when he ascended to the presidency of the country.
However, claims of vote-buying and money laundering littered his victory at the ANC elections.
Critics also accuse him of purging those loyal to the Zuma faction.
This week, the party expelled controversial former spokesperson, Carl Niehaus, who has been leading demonstrations by ANC members against Ramaphosa.
With general elections set in two years time, the ANC’s fortunes are on a wane, Ramaphosa seemingly a liability.
– CAJ News