Ramaphosa in a show of force: ‘This will be a turning point in the fight against corruption’

South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa appeared to flex his muscles in a briefing on Monday (31 August), outlining the the outcomes of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held over the weekend.

Bloomberg reported that Ramaphosa gained the upper hand in a power struggle in the nation’s deeply divided ruling party after surviving a bid to force him out of office, clearing the way for him to overhaul his cabinet.

The ouster attempt was made during a three-day meeting of the ANC top leadership that ended Sunday, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In his online address, Ramaphosa said the the NEC agreed that the ANC needs to draw a line in the sand between the organisation, and those who steal from the people. He said that the NEC agreed to the points of action that need to be taken.

He said that the NEC recognised what seems to be a choreographed campaign against him, which will not distract the movement against its campaign against corruption, and state capture.

The president said that the NEC has endorsed his letter to ANC members around tackling corruption from within the party.

He said that cadres of the movement, who are formally charged with corruption or other serious crimes, must immediately step aside from all leadership positions in the ANC, or other government structures.

The president said that cadres caught in acts of corruption, must face the integrity commission, to explain themselves. Those who do not give an acceptable explanation, may be suspended. Those convicted, must resign from leadership positions, and face disciplinary actions.

“They have to be serious allegations that are of such a nature that somebody must answer for themselves in a satisfactory matter. Once they have done so the integrity commission must give consideration to what they say and make a decision.”

Ramaphosa said that the commission’s decision should be binding; he added that the ANC has a mechanism in place to revoke a persons ANC membership.  This includes expulsion and a time limit on when they may return the party.

“There are some people that have, of there own volition, already decided they will step aside. We should pay tribute and respect to such members and say that they are putting the interest of the ANC ahead of their own interests.”

The integrity commission will be strengthened, for the means of carrying out its mandate, the president said.

“The NEC agreed that this will be a turning point in the fight against corruption,” he said.

Former president Zuma

The president said that he would also not ‘publicly entertain’ issue levelled against him by former president Jacob Zuma in an open letter sent ahead of the NEC meeting.

Instead, he said that it is important for leaders to engage in discussions within the confines of the (ANC) movement.

“This is not a power contest. What we are seeking to do is reposition the African National Congress and we will reposition it through policies taken at our 54th conference. There is no magic about it.”

Corruption problem

President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to clamp down on endemic corruption, but his efforts have been stymied by a lack of support within his ruling African National Congress party and a dearth of capacity in law-enforcement agencies, Bloomberg reports.

No high-profile politicians have been convicted in connection with the theft of more than R500 billion ($30 billion) from the state during former president Jacob Zuma’s rule.

The National Prosecuting Authority said it will charge a high-profile individual next month as part of its investigation into the plunder of state funds, according to the head of the body’s investigating directorate.

The authority is close to arresting people involved in the Estina dairy scandal, Hermione Cronje said in an interview with the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times newspaper. The NPA is scrutinising evidence to ensure it can sustain a case, she said.

“That is the work that needs to come to fruition in the next month,” she told the paper. “We are unbelievably close” to making arrests, Cronje said.

President’s Letter

In his letter, penned on 23 August, Ramaphosa said that corruption stands as one of the greatest challenges facing society. “The progress that our nation has made in improving the lives of our people in the last quarter century is being eroded by corruption and patronage.”

“It is a matter of great concern to us that corruption has so deeply infected the state, the business community and society to a point of threatening to undo the gains we have made in the last 26 years.

“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 No. 1. This is the stark reality that we must now confront,” the president said.”

“Now is the time, the NEC has resolved, to make a break with the past and to act,” he said.

Not only has money been stolen, but many of these institutions have been left deeply dysfunctional and some virtually destroyed. It has caused huge damage to the economy and to the capacity of the state.

We must have the political courage and the honesty to acknowledge that ANC leaders, public representatives and members have on numerous occasions been implicated in such forms of corruption.

To address corruption in the ANC, Ramaphosa said the following action needs to be taken:

  • Every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices must account to the Integrity Commission immediately or face disciplinary processes.
  • People who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures should be summarily suspended.
  • The ANC should publicly disassociate itself from anyone, whether business donor, supporter or member, accused of corruption or reported to be involved in corruption.
  • Require ANC leaders to make regular declarations of financial interests.
  • Conduct lifestyle audits of all ANC leaders and public representatives.
  • Develop a clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state. The party must acknowledge that once one accepts a leadership position, a higher standard of behaviour applies.
  • Strengthen the Integrity Commission and provide it with clear administrative and legal support.
  • The ANC must develop uniform terms of reference and guidelines for provincial and regional integrity structures. To address corruption in the state and society, the party must:
    • Mobilise for a ‘whole of society’ response against corruption and ANC members must support progressive organisations in their stand against corruption.
    • Ensure transparency and accountability in procurement. The party need to build on the ‘open tender’ processes employed in certain areas and make use of technology and artificial intelligence as a standard practice to tackle corruption across all of government.
    • Information about who is tendering for contracts should be made public, as well as the vetting process to verify their credentials. Items being tendered for must be costed per unit, and civil society should be able to access this information so that the public can monitor if prices are being inflated beyond reasonable acceptable profits before a tender is awarded.
    • Government should establish in conjunction with civil society an anti-corruption hotline reporting and online service specifically in relation to Covid-19 and beyond. This platform should allow ordinary people to report corruption.
    • Strengthen and resource law enforcement and insulate it from political interference. The process of establishing an independent and multi-disciplinary agency to deal with cases of white-collar crime, organised crime and corruption must be fast-tracked.
    • Conduct lifestyle audits of senior public servants and leaders of public entities.

Read: Ramaphosa gains upper hand in ANC power struggle

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Ramaphosa in a show of force: ‘This will be a turning point in the fight against corruption’