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ANC suspends Mervyn Dirks over call for Ramaphosa to appear before Scopa

20 January 2022 - 14:34
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks.
ANC MP Mervyn Dirks.
Image: People's Assembly

The ANC has suspended controversial MP Mervyn Dirks over his call for President Cyril Ramaphosa to account in parliament for utterances he allegedly made in a leaked audio clip about the misuse of public funds for internal party leadership campaigns in 2017.

ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina informed Dirks of his precautionary suspension and the intention to institute disciplinary proceedings on Thursday.

This after Dirks ignored Majodina's instruction earlier this week to withdraw a letter to Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the chairperson of parliament's standing committee on public accounts (Scopa), in which he asked that Ramaphosa be summoned to appear to tell  what he knows about the misuse of public funds for party political activities.

“This serves to notify you of the intention of the office of the chief whip to initiate disciplinary proceedings against you. This follows your conduct unbecoming of a whip of the ANC parliamentary caucus, a position of leadership in the ANC caucus,” reads Majodina's letter to Dirks, dated January 20.

“This further serves to notify you of the intention of the office of the chief whip to place you on precautionary suspension with immediate effect for the necessary investigations to take place.”

During the period of suspension, Dirks will be relieved of his duties as the whip of the ANC's Scopa study group and as the questions whip of the ANC parliamentary caucus.

His membership of the party's powerful strategy committee will be suspended and his membership of Scopa withdrawn.

Dirks will also be removed from the ANC caucus's WhatsApp groups and he has been “specifically” prohibited from engaging on any media platform “in any way whatsoever regarding this matter”.

Nomfanelo Kota, spokesperson for the ANC caucus, said: “The office of the chief whip has thus far treated this matter as an internal issue and that is why we have not issued any public communication on it. It remains as such and I am not at liberty to provide any further details while internal processes are under way.”

TimesLIVE understands that, at its meeting which started on Thursday morning, the ANC national executive committee (NEC) discussed Dirks’ behaviour and heard that its national working committee (NWC) had decided he should face a disciplinary process.

“The NWC noted with concern comments on social media by an ANC MP, Mervyn Dirks, appearing to pray for the demise of the president,” read a NWC report which was presented to the NEC meeting.

“Furthermore, the NWC noted a number of reports regarding actions and pronouncements by the member that have the effect of bringing the ANC into disrepute.

“Accordingly, the NWC decided to act in terms of rule 25.9 of the ANC constitution which provides that: ‘The officials, NEC, the NWC, the PEC, the PWC, the REC, the RWC, the BEC or office bearers of any of these structures exercising its right to invoke disciplinary proceedings under this constitution, may initiate and/or institute disciplinary proceedings against any member, office bearer or public representative of the organisation in respect of any act of misconduct referred to in rule 25.17 below.'

The office of the chief whip has indicated it will place Dirks on precautionary suspension pending the institution of (caucus) disciplinary proceedings against him for conduct unbecoming of a whip.
ANC NWC report presented to NEC

Furthermore, the office of the chief whip has indicated it will place Dirks on precautionary suspension pending the institution of (caucus) disciplinary proceedings against him for conduct unbecoming of a whip.”

Dirks wanted Ramaphosa to appear before Scopa over allegations that he knew about — and took no action against — the misuse of state funds for ANC campaigning.

Dirks wrote to Hlengwa asking that his committee summon Ramaphosa after a leaked recording of an ANC NEC meeting at which the president spoke about the use of state money for certain campaigns in the lead-up to the 2017 ANC elective conference.

In the recording Ramaphosa can be heard saying: “One of the officials said as these people from the State Security [Agency] testify [at the state capture commission], one of the officials said soon they will be revealing about how money was used for some campaigns, and I said I would rather they say you got money from this business for CR17 than for the public to finally hear that their public money was used to advance certain campaigns.”

In his letter to Hlengwa, Dirks implies Ramaphosa might have committed perjury when he failed to alert the Zondo commission to his knowledge of allegations of abuse of state funds.

“This statement by the president [in the leaked audio] has far-reaching implications for our fight against corruption and maleficence. In fact, it leaves the president’s own ‘New Dawn’ project in tatters,” he wrote.

“Furthermore, the president appeared before the Zondo commission under oath and withheld this damning information. Does this amount to perjury? The admission by the president of his knowledge of corruption and his refusal to divulge it will definitely make the final state capture report questionable and render it as not worth the paper it is written on,” said Dirks.

In response, Majodina instructed Dirks to withdraw his letter by 9am on Tuesday. She indicated the decision was taken by the caucus' strategy committee, a committee Majodina chairs.

Dirks dug in his heels, and requested to be furnished with the reasons he had to withdraw his letter.

“Any instruction by my party, the ANC, which I love, needs to pass constitutional muster since we have a constitutional democracy at this juncture and not a parliamentary democracy,” he wrote.

Dirks told Majodina the instruction to withdraw the letter “should not be based on factional considerations but instead be based on governance and law as is required by all who took the oath of office and swore allegiance to the constitution, to uphold it, and not any individual party political interests.

“Please note that I am not defying an instruction from the ANC, but in light of the accusations which were levelled against me at the meeting, I need to be informed in writing of the reasons the ANC strategy took the decision to instruct me to withdraw the letter.

“Also please indicate to me in writing if my letter is in breach of any parliamentary rules and procedures or in conflict with the constitution of the country, which is the supreme law. Is my letter in conflict with my oath of office and what informs the decision to instruct me not to play my oversight role?”

He told Majodina he was considering her instruction.

Dirks was previously in trouble for his utterances and gestures in the National Assembly, and has been found guilty of breaching the code of ethical conduct for MPs for a statement he posted on social media where he referred to certain MPs as “dogs” on his Facebook page.

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