POLITICAL WEEK AHEAD: Battles involving Zuma, Ramaphosa and Mkhwebane head to court
Parliamentary committees get back to work this week after a long recess while various court battles involving former president Jacob Zuma, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and President Cyril Ramaphosa get under way.
The corruption, fraud and racketeering trial involving Zuma and French arms company Thales will resume in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday.
While Zuma’s lawyers have indicated that he will be unable to attend the hearing as he is receiving medical treatment overseas, KwaZulu-Natal director of public prosecutions Elaine Zungu has requested copies of any medical evidence they intend to submit to court to justify his absence.
Zuma stands accused of receiving multiple bribes and gifts from his former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, in exchange for his interventions and assistance with Shaik’s business interests. It is the state’s case that Shaik facilitated a R500,000-a-year bribe for Zuma from Thales in exchange for the former president’s “political protection” from any investigation into the arms deal.
Also set down for Tuesday and Wednesday is Ramaphosa’s application in the high court in Pretoria for a judicial review of Mkhwebane’s report on the R500,000 donation by the late CEO of Bosasa, Gavin Watson, to Ramaphosa’s 2017 campaign to become ANC president.
Mkhwebane concluded that there was merit to allegations of money laundering and found that Ramaphosa had violated the executive code of ethics and may have exposed himself to a conflict of interest in receiving certain donations. She ordered the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate what she said was “prima facie” evidence of money laundering and ordered parliament to refer what she called Ramaphosa’s dishonesty to parliament and his unlawful failure to disclose his campaign donations to parliament’s ethics committee.
National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise and NPA boss Shamila Batohi will be challenging Mkhwebane’s report on the grounds that her remedial action infringes on their powers.
Investigative journalism organisation amaBhungane is an intervening party in the case and is asking the court to ensure that, whatever the outcome, politicians must in future be required to disclose the funding of their internal party elections.
Ramaphosa’s lawyers have criticised Mkhwebane’s investigation as “unlawful” and “malicious”, saying it was driven mostly by a “reckless determination” to malign the president.
Mineral resources & energy minister Gwede Mantashe will open the 2020 Africa Mining Indaba, which takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from Monday to Thursday. An Alternative Mining Indaba will also be taking place, during which Corruption Watch will tackle issues such as transparency in the sector and the role of traditional leadership and governance of land use, which it says have often excluded communities from decision-making.
On Monday, Chinese ambassador Lin Songtian will update the media on efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic, which has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation.
Also on Monday, the DA’s head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, will brief the media on the party’s draft values and principles document that will be discussed at the DA’s upcoming policy conference in April.
On Tuesday, the portfolio committee on agriculture, land reform and rural development will be briefed by the department on the outbreak of diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever, brucellosis, anthrax, and on actions taken to control and prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.
The portfolio committee on home affairs will be briefed by the department on the proposed amendments to the Border Management Authority Bill that were made by the National Council of Provinces, while the communications committee will be briefed on the implementation of the broadcast digital migration policy.
Also on Tuesday, the select committee on finance will be briefed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa on its annual report. The bank’s recent decision to lend R3.5bn to SAA could come under the spotlight if MPs ask questions about this.
The standing committee on public accounts will hold a follow-up meeting on Wednesday on the financial management of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA and the regression on its audit outcomes. On the same day, the select committee on security and justice will be briefed by the department of justice on the Cybercrimes Bill.