‘Retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo asks for police protection’

A senior member of parliament, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe, has made sensational claims that retired chief justice Sandile Ngcobo has applied for police protection after he received threats to his life following the release of the Section 89 Independent Panel report into the Phala Phala saga.

Sunday World can reveal that Meshoe, in his letter to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, argued for a secret ballot on the report into the farm burglary at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s farm, and alleged that there was an environment of fear since the release of the report.

Without providing any detail, Meshoe further alleged that “it is rumoured” that key witnesses in the Phala Phala case have gone missing.

“We would like to submit that in the current charged political environment, where people fear for their lives and positions, the normal political process will be stifled if members of parliament must cast their votes in the open,” Meshoe said in a letter written on Friday.

“We know that, on all levels of government, political killings have become normative in South Africa. We have it on reliable authority that former chief justice Ngcobo has during this week applied for police protection.

“It is rumoured that key witnesses in the Phala Phala case have gone missing. We submit that you don’t only have the discretion to determine the method to be employed to decide a matter in parliament, but that, given the new threats, you have the discretion to remake and reverse your previous decision considering the new information brought to your attention.”

On Monday, Mapisa-Nqakula rejected the bid by Meshoe and other leaders of opposition parties to have the vote cast in secret. Opposition party leaders tried and failed to use the start of proceedings on Tuesday in the National Assembly to twist Mapisa-Nqakula’s arm on the secret vote.

She explained that the parliamentary environment is always a highly politicised space and can never be entirely free of political tensions either between or even within parties.

However, Mapisa-Nqakula said she believed otherwise, noting that the environment was not as toxic and highly charged that members would be prevented from exercising their vote according to their conscience using an open voting procedure.

“The speaker, using her powers as enjoined by the National Assembly rules, has a right to exercise her discretion in determining the voting method to be employed when deciding on questions before the house, where no voting method is prescribed in the rules of the National Assembly,” parliament said in a statement.

“She stressed the importance of ensuring due regard to an environment of accountability and at the same time maintaining transparency and openness. The speaker has also noted concerns about potential “vote-buying”, and it was her view that this could be facilitated by a cloud of secrecy.”

Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, had not responded to questions (about Ngcobo asking for police protection) at the time of going to publication.

The panel found that Ramaphosa may have committed serious violations of some sections of the constitution including the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PRECCA) by acting in a manner that is inconsistent with his office.

Ramaphosa may have committed serious misconduct “by exposing himself to a situation involving a conflict between his official responsibilities and his private business”, ruled the panel.

It further found that there was prima-facie evidence that more than $800 000 (R13.7-million) was stolen during the burglary at Phala Phala, which was stashed in a sofa and not reported to the Reserve Bank as required by the country’s laws regulating foreign currency.

“Quite apart from this, the president’s private residence is broken into and more than half a million US dollars in cash is stolen. The crime is not reported to the SAPS [SA Police Service] for investigation in the normal course.

“Nor is it reported under section 34(1) of PRECCA. Instead, a team led by the president’s head of presidential protection unit is put up. Included in the team is an ex-SAPS member whose particular expertise is not known other than that he is a social worker,” Ngcobo said in the report.

“This team surreptitiously conducts its investigation and requests the Namibian police officials to handle the matter ‘with discretion’ because of its ‘sensitivity’ and ‘the envisaged fallout it will create in South Africa’.

“The president gets involved in the investigation by seeking ‘assistance in apprehending the concerned suspect’ from the president of Namibia [Hage Geingob]. All of this occurs amid accusations of torture and bribery of the suspects to buy their silence. And if these accusations are established, they make the violations and the misconduct involved in the charges very serious indeed.”

Meshoe said he does not doubt Ngcobo’s genuineness. “I have no reason to doubt the security concerns that former chief justice raised or his genuineness.”

  • This story will be updated when the SAPS responds to questions

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