Cape Town - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would be within his rights to launch a commission of inquiry into state capture independently of President Jacob Zuma, according to the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa.
Launching the inquiry, and tackling both state and private sector corruption, were among six broad priorities that the institute, also known as Accountability Now, urged the newly-elected ANC president to undertake.
Last month Ramaphosa beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in a tight race to become the new ANC president, taking over from Jacob Zuma.
This puts Ramaphosa in pole position to be ANC candidate for president at the 2019 general election.
In a letter written last week by its director and head of projects advocate Paul Hoffman, Accountability Now urged Ramaphosa to immediately set up a government-backed commission of inquiry into state capture, as outlined in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
In her last report released in late 2016, Madonsela had ordered the president to set up a commission of inquiry into state capture within 30 days, headed by an independently elected judge.
Under Section 84 of the Constitution the power to appoint commissions of inquiry rests with the president. But Zuma did not set up the inquiry, and approached the courts to set aside Madonsela’s remedial action.
Eventually, in mid-December 2017, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that Madonsela’s remedial actions were appropriate and binding.
The court sanctioned Madonsela’s original remedial action, saying that Zuma, in his capacity as president, must institute a commission of inquiry into state capture within 30 days.
Zuma, meanwhile, has again approached the courts to take the most recent ruling on appeal.
But as it has previously argued, Accountability Now in its letter again made the case that Ramaphosa could institute the commission of inquiry himself.
Given that this authority rests with the president, doing so would involve some legal footwork which may or may not pass constitutional muster.
Hoffman argues that Ramaphosa, wearing his deputy president hat, could “assume” the duties of acting president due to what it says is an inherent conflict of interest in Zuma setting up such an inquiry.
“Doing so off your own bat, as deputy president of the nation, is the constitutionally pure way to act and it would not be contrary to the appeal processes which President Zuma has in mind,” he wrote.
Corruption versus economic revival
Remove Zuma ASAP: this was, broadly, the nub of the economic advice Hoffman gave Ramaphosa.
“The reaction of the markets to your election is hopefully a sign of good developments to come,” he said.
The rand strengthened considerably in the days before and after Ramaphosa's election as the new ANC president. On Tuesday it was trading at R12.33 to the US dollar.
Hoffman added the “Zuma factor” was reason enough for Ramaphosa to bring about the removal of Zuma.
“The necessary confidence and trust do not repose in the Zuma administration. For this, among other reasons, there is a veritable ocean of unused cash or near-cash on the balance sheets of public companies, waiting for you to unlock trust and confidence.”
He said Ramaphosa should cancel the nuclear deal, the arms deal and all “invalid procurements” while claiming back “the vast sums of money involved and returning whatever was illegally procured”.