WATCH | Ramaphosa promises no political interference in corruption clampdown

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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed there will be no political interference in SA law enforcement agencies.
  • Ace Magashule's supporters have been driving a narrative to discredit law enforcement agencies.
  • Ramaphosa told a joint sitting of Parliament: "Decisive action against crime and corruption is essential to inclusive growth."

President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged that there will be no interference in South Africa's law enforcement agencies as the clampdown on corruption continues.

In doing so, the president is offering a counter-narrative to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule's camp, who have been manoeuvring to discredit law enforcement.

He was addressing a joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday on his administration's economic reconstruction and recovery plan after the devastation of an already-ailing economy by the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ | Ramaphosa's economic rescue plan: Key announcements

"Decisive action against crime and corruption is essential to inclusive growth," Ramaphosa stated. 

"Criminal elements in our country have taken to the illegal occupation of construction sites and soliciting protection money from businesses."

When he referred to "criminal elements", someone in the DA benches blurted out: "Ace."

He said to combat the practice of the illegal occupation of construction sites, a Joint Rapid Response Team at a national and provincial level will respond to the problem of violent disruptions at construction sites and other business activities.

READ | Corruption-accused top cop Bonang Mgwenya suspended

News24 understands a senior police officer has been appointed to head this team.

Ramaphosa added that a "well-functioning revenue service is central to our economic recovery programme".

READ | Hawks know nothing about Magashule's 'warrant of arrest'

"The turnaround at the South African Revenue Service has begun in earnest, and significant areas of tax evasion and tax fraud have already been identified.

"SARS is rebuilding its capacity to reverse the decline, improve compliance and recover lost tax revenue.

"We are working to clamp down on the illegal economy and illicit financial flows, including transfer pricing abuse, profit shifting, VAT and customs duty fraud, under-invoicing of manufactured imports, corruption and other illegal schemes."

Ramaphosa said the "decisive action" taken to prevent, detect and act against Covid-related corruption will strengthen the broader fight against crime.

"The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has made significant progress in probing allegations of criminal conduct in all public entities during the national state of disaster."

He said the SIU's work continues and the outcomes of its investigations will be made public once all the due processes have been completed.

"Yes, It will also continue in Parliament if you want," he said good-humouredly, in apparent response to a remark from a DA MP.

"There's going to be lots of vacancies," DA MP Geordin Hill-Lewis chirped.

Strengthened

Ramaphosa said law enforcement agencies were being strengthened and provided with adequate resources to enable the identification and swift prosecution of corruption and fraud. He, however, did not go into any specifics. 

Last week, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shamila Batohi pleaded with Parliament against proposed budget cuts, which would reverse the gains made in the fight against corruption.  

"We wish to assure all South Africans that there will be no political interference with the work of law enforcement agencies," Ramaphosa said, adding that he will ensure there is no political interference.

READ | Hawks head: 'We have never taken instructions from anyone'

Magashule has been on law enforcement agencies' radar due to persistent allegations of his links to corruption in the Free State, where he served as premier from 2009 until 2018, when he took up office in Luthuli House after the ANC's 2017 Nasrec conference.

Two weeks ago, the Hawks, with the aid of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and SIU, made breakthrough arrests concerning the R255 million asbestos deal in the province. They arrested seven people, including businessman Edwin Sodi and former Mangaung mayor Olly Mlamleli.

Mlamleli is known as a Magashule ally.

Magashule is alleged to have had a hand in the deal.

Similarly, he is allegedly involved in the Estina Dairy Farm corruption scandal, which saw hundreds of millions of rand stolen from state coffers as part of the Guptas' state capture project.

News24 reported that Magashule and his allies have labelled his alleged imminent arrest as "nothing but political". 

Last week, Magashule's supporters allegedly leaked that he will soon be arrested by the Hawks.

The Hawks have denied this.

Then, on the weekend, it emerged that he wrote to the NPA.

"We are instructed that you are planning a media spectacle when you effect the arrest of our client. Our client should not be singled out for an arrest for no reason, as you are planning to do. Nor should he be humiliated, as we understand you are planning to do," the letter by Magashule's legal counsel read, as quoted by City Press

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