The number of inquiries on the go would ultimately lead to prosecutions and people would go to jail and wear orange overalls, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the African Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Ramaphosa’s address to the mining event was the first by a sitting South African president in the 25-year history of the event.
He is familiar with the mining industry having himself helped establish the National Union of Mineworkers and he was its first general secretary in 1982 – a position he held until 1991.
Ramaphosa was responding to a question from the audience about the various different probes that he had established.
The person asking the question said: “I would like to address the elephant in the room – that nobody talks about. Whenever we have an investment drive ... we are asked, ‘well you are having all these commissions of inquiry. What are you going to do at the end of the day?’ Can we give our investors comfort? What are we going to do?”
In response, Ramaphosa said: “Commissions of inquiry are established to address a specific problem and to go into the bowels of what caused the problem that has to be addressed. During the course [of the inquiry] they will unravel a lot of things. Dirt and everything else that smells foul and all that. So that is what we are going through now. We have a couple of them. We have the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. We have the tax commission. We have the Public Investment Corporation one. Now we have the hearing on some officials who were part of the National Prosecuting Authority. We have been through a very difficult set of years.”
“As these commissions yield all these horrible truths about what happened in the past there will be a time when the commissions come up with their findings. The findings may be things that make people feel uncomfortable. They will come up with recommendations about what should happen ... This is quite a cathartic moment for us as a nation. Looking yourself in the mirror ...”
He added: “Can I give you a clear assurance? We will act on those recommendations. The criminal justice system will get into action and act against wrongdoing. There has to be accountability. I have called for those that have been found to have done wrong things to be accountable.”
“There will be prosecutions and so people will end up going to jail and will wear orange overalls,” Ramaphosa said.
“Some people are very impatient. They say why is Ramaphosa not taking decisive action? I say all in good time. We have institutions. Some of which were weakened. We are strengthening those institutions. Everything must take place in the parameters of the rule of law. We want our institutions to act without fear or favour or prejudice. They must do their work. This time round they will do their work. It will not be like in the past where they were diverted from doing their work.
“We will be redeemed. We will be cleansed. We will become a much better country. I promise you that.”