PARLIAMENT, September 7 – The question on whether it was legal to grant Zimbabwean First Lady, Grace Mugabe, diplomatic immunity after she allegedly viciously assaulted a young model with an electrical cord should be left to the courts, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
Answering questions in the National Assembly, Ramaphosa would not be drawn on what his personal thoughts were, but said the courts would rule on the matter and Parliament was also looking into the matter.
“This is a difficult case in terms of balancing diplomatic imperatives against the imperatives of natural justice,” Ramaphosa said.
“In the end it is the courts of our country who will make a determination.”
He added that Parliament’s portfolio committee on international relations was also looking into the matter, while the court application was brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and civil rights group Afriforum.
Ramaphosa said International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane indicated she made the decision to grant Mugabe immunity in terms of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act.
Nkoana-Mashabane was in the firing line earlier today when DA MPs objected to her failure to appear before the portfolio committee on international relations on the Mugabe matter.
The minister sent a letter to the committee saying she could not appear because the DA’s high court application made the matter sub judice.
“This is blatant misuse of the sub judice rule which does not apply in this case,” the opposition party had responded.
Nkoana-Mashabane extend diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace after she allegedly assaulted a South African woman in August.
The decision is being challenged in court by the young model who claims Mugabe savagely beat her with an extension court, Gabriella Engels, and Afriforum.
It was up to parliamentary committees to use its powers to sanction cabinet ministers who fail to account to Parliament, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa, who as leader of government business is responsible for ensuring ministers account to Parliament, was asked whether he had looked into why Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi, despite committing to appear before a parliamentary oversight committee to answer questions, failed to do so.
“They [MPs] should get an explanation from the member [Muthambi] in question, so that I trust that should then take place and I will be raising it as well soon,” said Ramaphosa.
He reminded MPs the Constitution gave them the authority to call ministers to account and had the power to sanction members of the executive where necessary.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Ntombovuyo Mente was not happy with this answer, saying the portfolio committee on public service and administration had resolved to subpoena Muthambi and make her personally pay the costs of the collapsed meeting.
“Guess what happened? It [subpoena] was withdrawn from another level, so where are these powers? The subpoena has been withdrawn,” said Mente.
“She has never accounted for anything and yet, she remains a member of cabinet. Why is that?”
Ramaphosa insisted the matter was with the committee and that they should take action.
“Such powers [to sanction ministers] do not reside with the leader of government business and this is so because it is this House who can also sanction me…”
Asked whether he would recommend Muthambi’s axing, Ramaphosa said it was not his job.
“The Deputy President does not appoint members of the executive, so I cannot do that, I cannot even venture into the direction you are suggesting…to recommend or not recommend. It’s not my duty…it’s not my burden, and it’s not my responsibility.”
Muthambi has been found to be incompetent by MPs serving on a parliamentary inquiry into the affairs of the South African Broadcasting Corporation when she was still Communications Minister. They recommended President Jacob Zuma consider dismissing her.
In her latest portfolio, several reports surfaced that she had flown family and friends to Cape Town for her budget speech at a cost of over R300,000 to the taxpayer. It was also reported she staffed her private office beyond what was allowed in the ministerial handbook.