President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lawyer has confirmed that he will seek to have the section 89 panel report that disbelieved his account of the Phala Phala break-in challenged in the Constitutional Court.
In response to News24’s questions about the application, Ramaphosa’s attorney, Peter Harris, issued a brief statement on Sunday: “We received instructions from the president a few days ago to refer the panel’s report and recommendations to the Constitutional Court for review. Papers will be submitted soon.”
Harris did not say when Ramaphosa’s review application would be filed, but it could have a significant impact on Parliament’s planned Tuesday vote on whether the president should face an impeachment inquiry based on the section 89 panel’s multiple “prima facie” suspicions.
The panel, led by former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, was unconvinced by Ramaphosa’s account of the February 2020 theft of $580,000 from a couch in a room on his Phala Phala farm – and refused to accept his claims that the money was the proceeds of a buffalo sale.
The panel discovered, among other things, that the information presented to it established, “The money that was stolen appeared to be worth more than $580,000, and there was “substantial doubt about the legitimacy of the source of the currency that was stolen.”
“This is a very serious matter that, if proven, constitutes a serious violation and serious misconduct under Section 96 of the Constitution and [the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act,” it said.
In other words, the panel has effectively suggested that the $580,000 stolen from Phala Phala may be the proceeds of crime – a preliminary finding that fundamentally contradicts Ramaphosa’s ongoing claims that he did nothing wrong.
“A serious violation of the Constitution or the law, according to the same rules, is defined as “behavior by the president amounting to an intentional or malicious violation of the Constitution or the law performed in bad faith.”
“This demonstrates that not every violation of the Constitution is serious enough to warrant impeachment and removal of a sitting president from office. There must be something else triggering those processes.
“The panel correctly states that the allegations levelled against President Ramaphosa and his alleged behaviour are grave. I doubt anyone could seriously object to such a discovery. The question is whether the president acted maliciously and in bad faith with the necessary intent.
“That is not stated by the panel. It does not reveal whether the president intended to violate the Constitution or the law or to commit misconduct. What it does tell us is that bad faith can be inferred from the circumstances. This is simply insufficient.”