President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the African National Congress (ANC) needs to face the reality that its leaders stand accused of corruption – and that the party itself is “accused number one”.
In a letter to members of the party published on Sunday (23 August), Ramaphosa said that recent reports and findings of corruption related to Covid-19 emergency aid is “an unforgivable betrayal to millions of South Africans”.
He said that the corruption involved private sector companies and individuals, including civil servants, but noted that the problem corruption is deeply rooted within the party and within the government.
“As the inheritors of the legacy of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela, we must be honest with ourselves. We must acknowledge that our movement, (the ANC), has been and remains deeply implicated in South Africa’s corruption problem.
“We have to be sensitive to the concerns that are being raised by our people about our role as a movement in corrupt activities,” the president said.
“Today, the ANC and its leaders stand accused of corruption. The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as accused number one. This is the start reality that we must now confront,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that he isn’t suggesting that corruption is only a problem within the ANC – or that corruption is widespread among members – but the party has been ineffective in dealing with corruption, and in some cases allowed it to flourish.
He called for action to be taken within the party, including:
- All members accused of, or reported to be involved with corrupt practices to account to the party’s integrity committee.
- Those who fail to give acceptable explanation, or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary action, be suspended
- The party should publicly disassociate itself from anyone, whether donor, supporter or member, accused of or reported to be involved in corruption.
- ANC members to make regular declarations of financial interests.
- Lifestyle audits for all ANC leaders and public representatives
- Develop clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state.
- Give the ANC’s Integrity Commission administrative and legal support.
Let this be a turning point in our fight against corruption. pic.twitter.com/qw8MCZl9Li
— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) August 23, 2020
Ramaphosa’s letter comes after Sunday papers reported about a fresh push from within the ANC to investigate all its members and leaders accused of misconduct.
The ANC has launched a party-wide investigation into corruption allegations, where all provincial branches and leaders are required to draw up lists of every person accused of, or facing charges of wrongdoing.
These lists must then be delivered to the office of party secretary general, Ace Magashule, the City Press reported.
Despite the talk around coming down harder on corruption, there is a widespread belief that the government, and the ANC which governs within it, lacks any real will or capacity to actually deal with the issue, beyond superficial talk on the matter.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that allegations of corruption on Covid-19 procurement and the apparent irregular awarding of contracts to “sudden” businesses owned by friends and relatives of influential, ruling party and top government officials is serious cause for concern.
“Questions must be asked on whether the state has both the will and capability to root out and stop corruption,” it said.
Intellidex analyst, Peter Attard Montalto, meanwhile, said that the type of corruption in question – tender fraud and friends and family doing business with government – is so rooted within the ANC and how it manages political power, that it’s impossible for this to change without party-wide reform.
The modern ANC “is neither a policy generative machine nor an implementing machine” anymore. “It runs below the surface on tenderpreneurs, through neo-patrimonial rent extraction,” he said.
“The ANC is fundamentally incapable of shifting on corruption, in our view – not without a wholesale realignment of its membership, its parliamentary representatives and even those in government,” Attard Montalto said.
“Put simply, it isn’t going to happen unless these people are going to be taken out externally by law enforcement agencies.”
The proof of this mindset has been seen through virtually nothing being done against those within the party that have been linked to corrupt activities.
Both Attard Montalto, and more recently the Tutu Foundation, have highlighted that while much has been said about the things that have gone wrong, “little has been done to set them right”.
“There is a culture of impunity when it comes to corruption. Impunity flourishes in the absence of enforcement. None of the big fish and few little ones ever get caught,” the foundation said.
Despite high profile names – including those at the top of the ANC – being linked to corruption in the past, they remain in power, are shifted around the party, or are even promoted and rewarded.
The most recent example of this is how former eThekwini mayor, Zandile Gumede, was promoted the KwaZulu-Natal legislature – despite being arrested for and facing charges of fraud and corruption linked to R420 million worth of state contracts.
Other examples include those heavily tied to the Gupta state capture saga remaining within the party’s branches and in government.