Johannesburg - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa used his strongest words yet to slam deepening corruption and the undue influence of private business interests over government institutions, known as “state capture”.
Ramaphosa, 64, called for the establishment of a judicial inquiry “without further delay” to investigate a report by the Public Protector in November that said President Jacob Zuma and some ministers may have breached the government’s code of ethics in their relationship with the Gupta family, who are in business with Zuma’s son. Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.
“The house is burning,” Ramaphosa told a meeting of the South African Communist Party on Wednesday in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg. “There is not a day that passes that we do not gain greater insight into a network of illicit relationships, contracts, deals and appointments designed to benefit just one family and their associates.”
Ramaphosa’s speech was the latest in his campaign to replace Zuma as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December on a platform of fighting corruption and stimulating growth and jobs in a country with a 28% unemployment rate. His main rival is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the president’s ex-wife and his favourite for the job. She’s backed Zuma’s call for “radical economic transformation” to increase the black majority’s share of wealth.
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The communist party, which is in a political alliance with the ANC and has members in the Cabinet, wrote a letter to the ruling party asking it not to send Zuma to its conference this week. The party has urged the president to resign.
Ramaphosa has won support from the communists and the main labour group, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, to replace Zuma at the ANC’s elective conference in December. While the ANC’s electoral performance slipped to an all-time low in municipal polls in August, the party’s president is still likely to become the nation’s leader in 2019.
“We now know without any shred of uncertainty that billions of rands of public resources have been diverted into the pockets of a few,” Ramaphosa said. “Unfortunately, tragically, state capture has already had a profoundly damaging impact on our economy, on our state and on the well-being of our people.”
Ramaphosa’s call for swift action against officials allegedly involved in “state capture” drew support from former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, whose dismissal by Zuma in March prompted two ratings companies to downgrade the nation’s sovereign-credit rating to junk.
“State capture is about the wrong kind of people, for their own benefit, taking over both the economic arms of the state and the enforcement arms of the state so that 55 million people are left thinking ‘where is this country actually going’,” he said in an interview at the conference.
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