Cape Town – The Speaker of the National Assembly on Tuesday announced the reversal of the appointment of Professor Richard Calland to serve on the Independent Panel of Experts to conduct a preliminary assessment of a motion to impeach President Cyril Ramaphosa.
This panel is tasked with assessing whether there is prima facie evidence that President Cyril Ramaphosa has contravened the law regarding the robbery at his Phala Phala and alleged cover-up, and whether impeachment proceedings should be instituted against him by Parliament.
Speaker Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula on Tuesday said she considered written submissions received from some political parties as well as a legal opinion regarding the appointment of Professor Calland.
After the Speaker appointed the three-member panel of experts on 14 September comprising Justice Sandile Ngcobo, who will also chair the panel, Judge Thokozile Masipa, and Professor Calland, Mapisa-Nqakula received objections from political parties.
Professor Calland was said to be unfit to be on the panel because as a political commentator has expressed views in support of President Ramaphosa.
The Speaker received objections from the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) regarding Professor Calland based on the perception of bias.
A submission was also received from the Good Party, which nominated Professor Calland, to be retained on the panel.
The Speaker sought a legal opinion from Parliament’s legal and constitutional unit on the matter.
“Having considered all the submissions from the political parties as well as the legal opinion, the Speaker was of a view that, while there exists no factual basis to corroborate any perceived or apprehension of bias, the integrity of the work of the panel would be best served if Professor Calland is excluded from the panel,” concluded Mapisa-Nqakula.
The Speaker has since communicated her decision to Professor Calland, who has expressed his appreciation for consideration and has accordingly agreed to the decision.
The Speaker has appointed Advocate Mahlape Sello, a respected senior counsel with decades of experience in legal practice, and who recently served on the Judicial Commission on State Capture, to serve on the panel.
She joins Justice Ngcobo and Judge Masipa as part of the panel.
Reacting to the removal of Professor Calland, the DA said it was a “victory for accountability”.
DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube said: “The DA welcomes the removal of Professor Richard Calland from the Section 89 Inquiry’s independent panel”.
The DA added: “This a victory for the institution of Parliament and indeed the legitimacy of the section 89 Inquiry.
“Professor Calland’s inclusion would have been in contravention of Rule 129G of the National Assembly in that panel members must be independent and impartial.
“Calland – while an expert in the field – has entered the political fray by routinely making his political views public.
“His inclusion would have been a spectacular error in judgment on the part of the Speaker and the institution.”
However, the GOOD party warned that the move to remove Professor Calland sets a dangerous precedent for future appointments.
“GOOD is disappointed to learn that the Speaker of the National Assembly has decided to withdraw the appointment of Professor Richard Calland to the Section 89 ‘impeachment’ panel,” said Brett Herron, GOOD Secretary General.
“Although we understand and respect that Professor Calland offered his recusal to the Speaker to assist the smooth functioning of the Panel, this was done in response to various unfounded Twitter allegations by the DA, EFF, and ‘RET’, based on personal animosity and political gesturing, that sort to undermine Professor Calland’s independence.
“It sets a dangerous precedent that the Speaker has capitulated to ulterior motives and social media pressure to reverse an appointment to this critical and independent process.
“Professor Calland’s legal skills, independence, and professionalism are beyond reproach, as further evidenced by the manner in which he has handled this issue.”
Commenting on his removal from the panel, Calland conceded in a statement that “it may not be in the best interests of the parliamentary process” for him to serve given the objections raised.
But the UCT professor rejected accusations of bias saying: “I am a fiercely independent person and so I absolutely reject the suggestion of bias that was made against me.
“As a trained lawyer, I am capable of assessing the evidence and reaching conclusions based on an impartial application of the relevant law or rules, without fear or favour.
“And I would do so regardless of anything that I have said or written in the past in my role as a political commentator.”