South Africa’s Ramaphosa should have acted against graft under Zuma
NNN: The latest damning findings from a four-year investigation into state corruption in South Africa under former leader Jacob Zuma, released on Wednesday, suggested President Ramaphosa may have acted against some of the allegations against his predecessor.
Upon receiving the report, Ramaphosa, then a Zuma MP, described the corruption as an “assault on our democracy”.
The report was delivered to Ramaphosa at his Pretoria offices by the head of the investigative panel and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The looting and mismanagement of South Africa’s state-owned companies during Zuma’s nine years in office, when Ramaphosa was his deputy, has been called “state capture”.
In all, it took an investigative panel more than 400 days to collect the testimonies of some 300 witnesses, including Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa’s answers to some questions about what he knew about the corrupt activities were “opaque” and “unfortunately leave some important gaps,” according to the report.
And whether it could have acted to curb bribery, “the mass of evidence before this commission suggests the answer is yes,” he said.
“Surely there was enough credible information in the public domain… at least to prompt him to investigate and perhaps act on a series of serious allegations.
“As vice president, surely he had a responsibility to do it.”
Ramaphosa did not immediately respond to the content of the report, but said it “provides us with an opportunity to decisively break from the era of state capture.”
“The capture of the state was really an assault on our democracy, it violated the rights of every man, woman and child in this country.”
The investigation was triggered by a 2016 report by the then anti-corruption ombudsman.
More than 1,430 people and institutions, including Zuma, were implicated. Zuma has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Ramaphosa now has four months to act on the panel’s recommendations.
The first volume of the report was published in January and the entire document is now over 5,600 pages long.
The report described Zuma as a “critical player” in the high-level looting of state-owned companies that dogged his nine-year term, which ended unceremoniously in 2018 when he was forced to resign.
Zuma was slapped with a 15-month jail sentence last year for refusing to testify before investigators.
He was granted parole just two months after his imprisonment, but not before his imprisonment sparked riots last July that left more than 350 dead.
“Looting scheme” The panel said that “Zuma fled from the commission because he knew there were questions” that he would not answer, as he singled out his ally and former chairwoman of the struggling national airline South African Airlines (SAA) for running down the airline.
Investigations revealed how Zuma’s friends, the wealthy Indian-born Gupta brothers, became involved at the highest levels of government and the ruling African National Congress, including influencing ministerial appointments under Zuma.
Two of the three Gupta tycoons were arrested in Dubai earlier this month and face extradition to South Africa to stand trial.
“The natural conclusion is that during this period… the ANC under President Zuma allowed, supported and enabled corruption and state capture,” the report says.
Taking office after Zuma was forced to resign over corruption, Ramaphosa took office stating that fighting corruption was a priority of his administration.
Ramaphosa in 2019 estimated that corruption could have cost South Africa around 500 billion rand ($31.4 billion), then an amount equivalent to about a tenth of the GDP of Africa’s most industrialized economy.
The release of the final report comes as Ramaphosa is embroiled in a scandal following a robbery at his luxury cattle and game farm two years ago.
A former spy chief, Arthur Fraser, accused him of corruption, alleging that he hid millions of dollars in cash inside sofas and bribed thieves to avoid scrutiny for having large sums of cash at home.
The scandal risks derailing Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as ANC chairman before the 2024 general election. He says he is the victim of “dirty tricks” and “bullying” by those who oppose his fight against the corruption.
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