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ANC Caucus welcomes President Ramaphosa's correction to a parliamentary oral question

22 November 2018

The African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament has accepted President Cyril Ramaphosa's written correction sent to Parliament on Wednesday, 14 November 2018, relating to a supplementary question asked by the Leader of the Opposition during an Oral Reply session in the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday, 06 November 2018.

In his reply to a supplementary question about an alleged payment that had been made on behalf of Mr Gavin Watson to his son, Mr Andile Ramaphosa; and based on information at his disposal at the time; the President confirmed a business relationship between his son's company with African Global Operations (popularly known as Bosasa). The President further asserted that the payments were therefore for consultancy services rendered by his son's company to Bosasa.

After the oral reply session in the National Assembly, the President sought more information on the matter and wrote to Parliament stating that "he inadvertently provided incorrect information in reply to a supplementary question." The President then corrected his initial response, stating that the funds referred to were not related to a business contract with his son, but rather paid on behalf of Mr Watson into a trust account established to raise funds for a campaign for his candidature of the ANC Presidency in 2017.

As Caucus, we applaud the honesty and sincerity with which the President has handled this matter, by providing a correction upon having realised he had made a mistake in his oral reply to Parliament. These actions demonstrate astute and upright leadership on the part of the President.

In fact, this is not the first time the President has written to Parliament to provide a correction on a response given in the National Assembly. On 28 August 2018, the President wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly correcting the figure he had previously provided on the cost of legal fees of former President Jacob Zuma to the State.

Parliament works on the basis of Rules, precedence's, practices and conventions; and because the President previously corrected information in relation to costs and this was accepted, the recent correction is therefore consistent with that practice and approach.
Going forward, our rules must be amended to provide for instances wherein an unwitting incorrect answer is provided, to allow for corrections to be made within specific time frames.

The need for this provision in our Rules is important because it has been proven that it is possible to unknowingly give wrong or erroneous information to the House. This analogy can be found in Sections 13 and 17 (2) (e) of the Powers and Privileges Act of 2004 dealing with conduct constituting contempt of Parliament. The emphasis in these sections is "wilfulness" and "intent" on the member presenting the information.

Based on our rules and various rulings that would have been made by various presiding officers over the years, President Ramaphosa did not "intentionally" and "wilfully" mislead the House. His conduct would therefore not be categorised as un-parliamentary.

No political party represented in Parliament has brought forward a substantive motion, as our rules dictate, that the President's actions on this matter were un-parliamentary and amounted to lying.

Therefore, all those parties who have rushed to make allegations that the President lied, were motivated by cheap populism and politicking because such articulation is not supported by any facts.

Issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, comrade Jackson Mthembu.

Nonceba Mhlauli

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