DA concerned with the Speaker’s choice for the Section 89 Inquiry independent panel

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube MP – Chief Whip of the Official Opposition
15 Sep 2022 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The DA is deeply concerned about the composition of the Section 89 Inquiry that will be investigating President Cyril Ramaphosa’s complicity in the robbery at his Phala Phala farm.

The rules of the National Assembly which were adopted to give effect to Section 89 of the Constitution are clear. The Speaker ought to select – following consultation with the parties represented in Parliament – three members who are “fit and proper, competent, experienced and respected South African citizens, which may include a Judge”.

More importantly, the panel should be independent and objective in order to do its work without fear or prejudice.

While the DA has no concerns about the members of the judiciary who have been appointed, we are not convinced of Professor Richard Calland’s objectivity and independence. Professor Calland is no doubt a respected academic in the legal fraternity but is also a political commentator who routinely plays into the political fray; publicly offering his political views especially as it pertains to the President.

The rules do make provision for the inclusion of an academic, however, the inclusion of Professor Calland will inevitably threaten the legitimacy and the integrity of the entire process.

Professor Calland has, through his political commentary and social media pronouncements, displayed a consistent bias towards the President which makes him unsuitable for this role given that this panel must be free from any hint of bias.

It is therefore unclear why the Speaker – aware of the sensitivity of this process – would select someone who cannot be viewed as an independent panel member based on this public work over the years.

The Inquiry needs panel members are able to objectively assess whether there is prima facie evidence that the President has contravened the law and whether impeachment proceedings should be instituted by Parliament. Therefore, the report that is produced by this panel becomes critical for Parliament’s next steps as per the rules.

If this assessment by the panel is compromised – whether in practice or in perception – it will mean the entire exercise cannot be taken seriously.

The DA will be bringing this matter to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, during our meeting with other political parties next week Tuesday.

The objectivity of this panel is the only way we can ensure that this process is not rendered useless. As it stands, members of parliament and the public cannot be certain that this will not be the case.