DURBAN - THE ANC in Parliament is in a dilemma after the party’s whip on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), Mervyn Dirks, wrote to the committee demanding that President Cyril Ramaphosa be disciplined over a leaked recording where the president said he would “rather fall on the sword” than reveal the names of those who stole state funds.
The Daily News is in possession of a recording of the ANC strategic caucus held late on Tuesday night, where Parliament House Chairperson of Committees Cedric Frolick raised his concern about Dirks’s conduct to the ANC chief whip, Pemmy Majodina.
Frolick, who is responsible for implementing guidelines on the scheduling and co-ordination of committees, was heard in a recording bemoaning that it was unheard of for a member of the ANC in Parliament to jump ahead and deal with issues affecting the president.
“Comrades, I must tell you that I am a member of this caucus for 23 years and I have never ever encountered something like this where a member of the ANC will write a letter purporting to be jumping ahead of the opposition and to deal with issues affecting the president.
“This video (recording) is not new, it has been there for months, and you ask yourself why is it arising now, and why is it fair that Parliament must be dealing with it? But Chief Whip, I must also add, and for the comrades that are here tonight, that I am in this meeting in a dual capacity – the one capacity is being an ANC member, of course being very disappointed, but secondly as an office-bearer.”
Frolick went on to mention that given what had happened in the media regarding the issue, he would guard what he said because it could be easily misconstrued.
“We are sitting in a situation we did not ask for – it is being brought upon us, and it is really sad to see to it that the target – whether it is being deemed that we want to pre-empt the opposition or not – is the president of the ANC. The problem that I have is that since that letter appeared, there’s also been, parallel to that, a campaign in the media almost to put pressure on us as the ANC, but also as the Parliament to deal with the matter in a particular way.”
Frolick blamed the ANC and said that it was the members of the party in Parliament who had brought the information to the media.
“I want to say here in front of comrade Dirks, whether he had ill or good intentions … the challenge that we sit with now is this thing in front of us. So those who planned and manoeuvred, it’s you that is going to get us into a situation where Parliament has to respond in terms of the rules.
“I understand the internal ANC process and it has been viciously dismantled in terms of how we deal with these things. It is inevitable that we will have to look at this, so whoever thought about things knew that even if they introduce the subject in the wrong manner, it will have to go toward its logical conclusion in terms of the institution that we are sitting in.”
Following the meeting, Majodina sent a letter to Dirks instructing him to withdraw the letter and send proof to her office, a request that was met with resistance from Dirks, who in response demanded to be furnished with reasons why he should withdraw his letter to Scopa. Dirks asked if his letter was in conflict with his oath of office and what informed the decision to instruct him not to play his oversight role. The publication asked Frolick whether he felt conflicted as both House chairperson of committees and senior member of the ANC who has to apply the parliamentary rules and hold the president accountable. Frolick said that he was in that ANC meeting to advise on House procedural issues of Parliament and that he was constantly doing so with all parties represented in Parliament.
“On the issue of the ANC strategic caucus, I cannot comment on internal issues of the ANC. Rather speak to the Scopa chair and the ANC chief whip,” Frolick said.
Approached for comment, Dirks refused to do so, stating that he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Majodina’s acting caucus spokesperson, Nomfanelo Kota, said the party would not comment on internal matters of the caucus.
“We are dealing with the matter internally. As long as we have not issued a public statement, we are not going to provide any information.”
Chairperson of Scopa Mkhuleko Hlengwa said he had consulted Parliament's legal unit to seek advice in terms of the rules of parliamentary procedure.
In a letter to Dirks dated January 18, Hlengwa explained that he had considered Dirks’s correspondence and scheduled a special committee for Friday to formally table his request with motivation to the committee.