The issue of why the South African government granted diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe, following allegations that she assaulted a South African model, Gabriella Engels, will be dealt with at two levels, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament last week.
These are the portfolio committee process and the court process.
A South African human rights organisation, Afriforum, is changing the granting of immunity through the courts.
South Africa’s Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane who granted Grace Mugabe immunity was unable to appear before the portfolio committee as she was reportedly out of the country but she has been arguing that the matter is sub-judice.
Grace Mugabe says Engels in fact attacked her with a knife when she went to protect her two sons.
The Insider was been provided a transcript of the question and answer session with Ramaphosa yesterday.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: House Chair, the decision to grant Mrs Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity was taken by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, hon Maite Nkoana Mashabane. She has indicated that she did so in terms of section 7(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, a piece of legislation that the Minister administers.
The Minister has sent correspondence to the Speaker of this House in this regard, and I understand that the relevant portfolio committee is now ceased with this matter. Furthermore, both the … [Interjections.]
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Order, hon members!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: … both the DA and AfriForum have approached our courts to review this decision, which they are entitled to in every way possible. I trust that this House, through the portfolio committee process and taking into account the courts proceedings that are currently underway, will deal with the matter on whether or not the Minister’s decision was appropriate.
This is a difficult case, in the light of the complexities of balancing diplomatic conventions, as well as protocols against the imperatives of natural justice. Where violence against women and children is concerned, the authorities must exercise their duties in line with the applicable law and in the furtherance of the goal to end the scourge to whoever that may be affected.
So, all I would say on this matter is that, there are two processes that are underway. There is a portfolio committee process and there is also the courts process. Even if we may think that the one may not be successful as the other, but certainly, the courts process through the exercise of the powers that our judiciary has, they will be able to deliver solution and end or judgement on this regard. We will then be able to know what should have happened.
So, I would say that, let us then leave it on that level, even as we’re insulting and say: “Shame on you, this and that.” In the end, it is the courts of our country that will make a determination. Thank you very much.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Order, hon members! Let us give the hon member an opportunity to put the question!
Mr M HLENGWA: Chairperson, let me say to Mr Deputy President that we should get real. Why is it that it must be courts all the time that must tell the ANC government what to do? Why do you fail to do the right thing for the South African citizens?
A dangerous precedent has been set with the issue of President Omar Al-Bashir, and the courts had to tell you that you are wrong. You then go and sacrifice a South African, Gabriella Engels, at the altar of expediency and allow Mrs Mugabe to leave the country, whilst leaving Gabriella wanting here in this country. When will you put the South Africans first?
You have sacrificed the human rights. Dalai Lama was refused a visa because you said that, you are protecting the diplomatic relations. When is it that the ANC government will take the side of that which is right when dealing with the issues of diplomacy? We cannot possibly, hon Deputy President, have a situation where a South African is left helpless because there is power on the other side of Mrs Mugabe. So, whilst you wait for the courts, I would like to hear your views.
Do you think that what has happened is correct, and provide the necessary leadership so that you can actually be a gleam of hope that there is somebody in the ANC benches who actually believes in human rights? This current prevailing situation is not in the interest of our Constitution, and most certainly, does no justice for Gabriella Engels. Thank you. [Applause.]
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Hon Hlengwa, we do believe in human rights and we do believe in their exercise. You’ll also remember it was this side of the House that as early as 1912, that believed that South Africa should be a country that has human rights.
Throughout the years, you can go and study the Freedom Charter, the African’s Claims and the other entire documents ready to govern; you’ll find that this side of the House has always been strong on the issue of human rights. Now, on this matter, the Minister has taken a decision. The very good thing is that we have a Constitution that has a separation of powers, where we have the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Where the executive make mistakes when taking certain decisions, we have a system that has checks and balances. Therefore, what we should now allow with the decision that has been taken is, to allow the courts of our country, who are the arbiters and are able to resolve the disputes between various components of the government.
Also, it is not a situation where we are always running to the courts for assistance. This is a case in point, and as I said to you, this is a difficult case. We should therefore allow the courts to rule on it. Indeed, I would like the courts to rule as quickly as possible on this matter, so that we know precisely how the executive should behave in future.
I am awaiting that, and if you like, I would say that we welcome the fact that the matter has been taken to court. We will not run away from that, and the courts will then take a decision on this matter. But rest assured, we will never waiver on the issue of human rights. Thank you very much.
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Order, order hon members! The next follow up question is to be taken by hon Xalisa. Is the hon member here?
Mr N S MATIASE: House Chair!
The HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Mr C T Frolick): Are you taking the follow up question on behalf of the member?
Mr N S MATIASE: Yes! More often than not when the Deputy President is found wanting on moral questions such as human rights question, common and often regular offenders such as Zuma appears to be born-again Christians, almost close to sainthood. Now, I want to ask him, is he prepared to go down with the people like Zuma and them, and take the fall for them? Why can’t he stand up now in defence of the South Africans?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I didn’t get the real sort of heart of the question. Am I prepared to go down on my knees; am I prepared to go underground or am I prepared to go wherever? I didn’t quite get the question.
What we have said is that, the ANC and this government places the issue of human rights extremely high. In fact if you like, it was this issue that really inspired the ANC to be formed, and we will not retreat on the issue of human rights and respect for human rights. Thank you very much. [Applause.]
Mr Z N MBHELE: Chairperson, Deputy President, during this reply session you have spoken a lot about the missteps made, the mistakes made and the faltering made by this government. But the fact is that, the real leadership would be the one that learns from those mistakes and that enforces accountability to set a new benchmark that prevents them being repeated again.
What we have seen with the Grace Mugabe episode, is a situation where principle was sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. So, facts on the table! Will you admit that this ANC government does not in fact believe in, or practice principled and accountable governance, because if it did, Mrs Mugabe would not have been allowed to get away scot-free? [Applause.]
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is this government more than any government that I know, that has ever existed in this country that is very strong on all the issues that you mentioned, like responsibility, accountability and doing the right thing. So, this is what defines the ANC, the government that currently governs this country. Thank you very much.
Mr S C MNCWABE: Hon Chair, Deputy President, has the government not created a dangerous precedent by overriding the rule of law for political reasons and giving effect to the concept of: “Some are equal but some are more equal than others?” Our Constitution guarantees in section 9 that all are equal before the law. What steps can the government take to redeem itself in the eyes of the ordinary South Africans and restore our faith in section 9 of the Constitution which guarantees equality before the law? Thank you.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: The government will continue to state and repeat that all the people of our country are equal before the law, and that nobody may be treated better than any other, or in a much more favourable way than any other South African. So, we are all subject to equal treatment without any favour and without any privileges being loaded on anyone else. That, I am able to confirm and that is what drives us as the governing party of this country. Thank you very much.