Ramaphosa vows to fight corruption in South Africa's ruling party

Ramaphosa vows to fight corruption in South Africa's ruling party


Cyril Ramaphosa, the new leader of South Africa’s ruling party, has vowed to crack down on the corruption that has weakened the African National Congress.

“Billions of rands have been illegally diverted to individuals,” Ramaphosa said in a speech celebrating the party’s 106th anniversary.

It was his first major public address since he was elected to lead Africa’s oldest liberation party in December, replacing scandal-prone president Jacob Zuma, who was booed upon his arrival at the event, as leader. Ramaphosa is likely to be elected the next president in 2019.

Public frustration over corruption allegations against Zuma deeply split the ANC in recent months, and Ramaphosa has been pressured by opposition parties and some ANC members to recall Zuma as president.

Ramaphosa, South Africa’s current deputy president, is instead stressing the need for unity. He said the ANC had become deeply divided through factionalism, patronage, corruption and competition for resources. “At the centre of our efforts this year is unity,” he added.

This week, on the eve of a high-level ANC meeting that had threatened to discuss his fate, Zuma acknowledged the pressure, announcing he was appointing an inquiry commission to look into the corruption allegations. “This matter cannot wait any longer,” he said.

On Saturday Ramaphosa thanked Zuma for the decision. “Corruption in state-owned enterprises and other public institutions has undermined our government’s programs to address poverty and unemployment,” he said. “We are going to confront corruption and state capture in all its forms.”

The ANC has been in power since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, but voters have grown disillusioned with the party of Nelson Mandela under Zuma’s tenure. South Africa’s economy briefly dipped into recession last year and unemployment hovers close to 30%.

One of Cyril Ramaphosa’s biggest tasks as ANC leader will be to untangle an alleged web of corruption and influence-peddling that has been spun around the government.

At the heart of many of the allegations against the president, Jacob Zuma, is his relationship with the Gupta family, who emigrated from India in 1993 seeking business opportunities in post-apartheid South Africa.

In March last year, Zuma told parliament he rejected accusations that he had delegated control of the finance ministry to the immensely wealthy local tycoons.

But Zuma was on the defensive. Days earlier, the then deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jonas, had said in a public statement that members of the Gupta family had offered him the ministerial post in December.

The Guptas denied the allegation, saying it was “totally false”.

Since then, the relationship between the Guptas and officials of the ruling party has rarely been out of the news.

Their close relationship with Zuma became clear when they flew hundreds of guests to a wedding near Johannesburg and were allowed to use a military airbase instead of usual civilian facilities. One of Zuma’s sons was a business partner of the Guptas.

Further details emerged just over a year ago in a report by Thuli Madonsela, then South Africa’s most senior anti-corruption watchdog, into alleged influence-peddling.

Earlier this year, more than 100,000 documents and emails were leaked to reporters which appeared to detail improper dealings in lucrative government contracts made with the Guptas.

Authorities launched an investigation into several allies of Zuma who have been linked to corruption at three state-owned companies. One of the allegations involves suspected kickbacks worth $411m (£316m).

The scandals have prompted many to talk of “state capture” – a process by which the country’s institutions and top officials have been corrupted by outside actors.

Speaking to the BBC in August, Atal Gupta said the claims against the family were based on misunderstandings and misinformation, and denied any wrongdoing. Zuma also denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

Photograph: Wikus de Wet/AFP

In 2016 municipal elections, the ANC lost control of the commercial hub of Johannesburg and the administrative capital, Pretoria, for the first time. Observers have warned that if support continues to dwindle, the party faces the possibility of losing its national majority in 2019 and having to govern as part of a coalition.

Ramaphosa pledged to address the country’s lingering inequality through a programme of “radical socio-economic transformation,” including free higher education for poor and working-class students, a national minimum wage and land expropriation without compensation.

“We aim to restore our focus on building an economy in which all South Africans can flourish, an economy which benefits the people as a whole rather than a privileged few,” he said.

Source link