Last week, the ANC in parliament suspended one of its MPs.
Mervyn Dirks had written to the chair of the standing committee on public accounts, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, asking for an investigation into comments by President Cyril Ramaphosa that suggested he knew that public money had been used to fund ANC campaigns.
The audio recording from an ANC national executive committee meeting was leaked last month.
In it, Ramaphosa could be heard saying he would rather fall on his sword than for South Africans to find out that the public purse had funded campaigns of some leaders of the ANC.
ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina instructed Dirks to withdraw the letter to Scopa, saying his conduct was unbecoming of an MP.
Dirks has instructed his lawyers to challenge the suspension.
Let’s be clear, both the leaking of the recording and Dirks’s request for parliament to investigate Ramaphosa must be understood in the context of the factional battles playing out in the ANC, especially in the run-up to its elective conference in December.
However, the motives of those behind the recording should be of no concern and should never divert our attention from the problematic nature of the president’s comments.
Ramaphosa’s team have said the recording was taken out of context to distort what he said.
They claim that the discussion was about the interrogation of his own CR17 campaign funds, which he supposedly welcomed without reflecting on the campaign funding of other leaders.
Granted, we do not have full knowledge of what was said in the meeting. However, it is perfectly reasonable for anyone who has heard the leaked recording to be concerned that, based on his words, it appears that Ramaphosa was shielding the ANC from scrutiny over what may have been theft of public money for its campaigns.
This is why we support the call for an investigation into the matter.
Whatever motives Dirks may have do not absolve Ramaphosa from his responsibility to account for what he knows or suspects.
His oath of office demands that he takes appropriate action where he believes that public money may have been used for sinister gains.
If he fails at fulfilling that responsibility, he too must be held to account.