WRAP | Ramaphosa concludes testimony at Zondo Commission, affirms commitment and support

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29 April 16:59

President Ramaphosa: "For a sitting president to come to a commission such as this one, a commission that he has established, some people say it’s unheard of. But we felt it was good to come both as president of the governing party as well as the president of the country.

"As ANC we support the work of this commission and affirm our total commitment to provide assistance to the commission to do this work, and with this, Mr chairperson, I would like to thank you.”

Justice Zondo: "I'm not aware of a sitting president in the history of this country appearing before a commission. I may be mistaken.

"It is very important. It is quite important that the ruling party, the majority party, has taken the attitude to tell the commission and the nation at large that they will support this commission.

"They knew that some of the things coming out of the commission will not be easy to deal with, but nevertheless concluded it was a process they should support, that the president of the party and the country to come to the commission to testify.

"I think it is important and it suggests the ruling party wants to account to the commission, saying to the commission we may have gone wrong somewhere, I think that's quite important and as the commission we appreciate that."

This concludes the first session.

Questioning of President Ramaphosa to continue in May.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:49

COMMENT | Ramaphosa repeats the point that state capture not only affected the state, it also affected the ANC.

He says it had a profound impact on the unity of the ANC.

The president noted that state capture did not benefit the party and it too faced the impact of it.

The question remains, why then did the ANC drag its heels in dealing with state capture? 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 16:45

President Ramaphosa in his closing statement talks about the importance of the commission and says time meant he couldn't give all the details he wanted.

He would at his next appearance want to detail how state capture is being cleaned up on state level and in state institutions.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:41

Ramaphosa is closing his testimony as ANC president with a closing statement.

He thanks the commission.

Ramaphosa also pays tribute to the first mayor of Johannesburg Isaac Mogase who died a few days ago. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 16:34

President Ramaphosa says in the choice of a new political system: "One would need to demonstrate their attractiveness."

He goes on to mention the United States system where presidents who are elected start acting as 'lone rangers'.

"We want a president who operates with other comrades in the party and who are subject to party rules, party policies, who is never seen as an individual who acts on his own, so that we never find an ANC president who wakes up one day and says he wants to build a wall. We should ask whether we want a sole acting president or a president who acts in a collegiate forum, where policy is properly discussed, where the president does not pronounce policy through Twitter, Facebook. So those are the issues."

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:32

COMMENT | President Ramaphosa takes Justice Zondo through the reasons South Africa opted for a proportional representation system - to give representation to smaller parties and to help with nation-building.

He also talks about various other models where direct presidential elections take place.

Perhaps the president should mention the examples of Kenya, and suggest critics of the proportional representation system ask them how direct presidential elections are working out for them.

Kenyans are perpetually complaining about their political system.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:28

Justice Zondo raises the possibility of direct presidential elections.

"What if a party puts up a candidate that is not suitable for a president, and people can’t choose to not vote for the candidate but vote for the party. What would you say to the proposition that consideration be given to enable the voters to vote directly for the president of the country?"

As he talks about this, Bridgette Radebe enters.

She arrived at the commission late yesterday as well, saying she was here to support the family members who are here (her sister, for one, is married to the president), and she also takes interest as a representative of business and mining - in terms of working with government to help combat corruption.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:20

COMMENT | The evidence leader tells Ramaphosa that “we closed the door gently on the past” but what Ramaphosa did not deal with is who must be held accountable for state capture.

Ramaphosa’s testimony was heavily focused on “this is in the ANC’s past” but that does not ensure it never happens again.

What must happen to those who are responsible for state capture?

That is the answers we need. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 16:19

Paul Pretoruis: "What were the signposts along the road for you that alerted you to the fact that state capture was going on or that there was corruption?"

Cyril Ramaphosa: "Must I answer you now or when I come back (as president of the country)?"

President Ramaphosa says this is contained in his statement prepared for his next round of testimony in May.

Evidence leader Paul Pretorius agrees that he could respond then, but that he shouldn't avoid a response.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 16:09

COMMENT | Ramaphosa makes an interesting point.

Some people may feel like appearing before the Zondo Commission would be career limiting. Zondo agrees.

The DCJ was asking Ramaphosa why didn’t Director Generals etc not come willingly to the commission.

While the ANC said it encouraged its members and leaders to comply with the commission, many remain hesitant. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 16:08

COMMENT | President Cyril Ramaphosa throws some shade on those who aren't prepared to come to testify at the commission (he doesn't mention his predecessor Jacob Zuma by name):

"It takes guts and courage for anyone to come and testify here, and many people have come before the commission to testify, others have had to come, they’ve been directed to come, and some you have subpoenaed, and others have volunteered. It’s not everyone who will have that kind of courage who will have their testimony in public and under scrutiny, and for some people it’s career-limiting, it would affect their families, it would affect them personally, it is not easy for them to come before you. It is not everyone who is brave enough."

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 15:59

COMMENT | Adv Pretorius asks a pertinent question: How did Ambassador Bruce Koloane appointed an ambassador to The Hague despite proof that he was involved in the Guptas’ Waterkloof landing.

Ramaphosa says it did raise eyebrows in the ANC but doesn’t go any further.

This is crux of the lack of accountability in the ANC.

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 15:58

COMMENT | Ramaphosa talks about how the Guptas hijacked ideological conversations around Black Economic Empowerment.

We must not forget that ‘white monopoly capital’ and the attack against it was the product of Bell Pottinger paid for by the Guptas.

Ramaphosa makes an interesting point that the Guptas pushed out real BEE companies from getting contracts from the state. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 15:57

We're back after a tea break.

President Ramaphosa is asked to explain what he understands state capture to be: "In our country the concept of state capture is tied up with corruption and the way certain interests have positioned themselves to have control over state institutions in relation to the resources of those institutions, people appointed to them, also how they had ensconced themselves with political leaders who they appeared to want to influence and what we got to hear was how it manifested itself in the form of those people dispensing patronage, dispensing positions, appropriating govt contracts in various state institutions, and that smacked of unlawful involvement in those institutions and undermined those legal processes that those institutions were supposed to have.

"And it was represented through a family [Guptas] who befriended certain people in government up to and including those people who claimed that they are friends, and they even underpinned what they were doing with ideological articulations that they were advancing the concept of black economic empowerment.

"And as it evolved we started seeing how even that concept of BEE was being undermined and in fact eroded, because they tended also to monopolise and appropriate onto themselves nearly as many contracts as possible and also the most lucrative ones that pushed out your black economic empowerment players.

"So the capture was multi-faceted and was so effective in that it was all pervasive, and it was in many ways done in the most clever way, because they tended to know which contracts are becoming available, where they’re becoming available, but I guess chairperson one would talk about that in the next session."

Ramaphosa will be testifying as president of the country next month.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 15:55

President Ramaphosa will be making a closing statement at 16:45. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 15:30

President Ramaphosa is being asked about patronage and its membership systems.

He says the ANC has renewed its membership system so it’s not subject to manipulation and that it’s not hijacked by those who want to buy membership for others.

It’s now digital, almost human free in the way it functions, in the way that it depends on you the member, you have to do work and it frees the ANC from manipulation.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 15:21

Ramaphosa mentions that stepping aside when implicated in wrongdoing is a fairly common practice in business, because of an awareness that the integrity of the company may be damaged by them not doing so.

He acknowledges the damaging impact the implicated officials continuing to remain in office has on the organisations they serve. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 15:15

Zondo tells that Ramaphosa that the ANC should reconsider its position on only pursuing disciplinary processes once an implicated official is convicted.

"I don't think anyone else follows that approach," he says.

Ramaphosa argues that a political organisation is very different to a company or an NGO, because it has active members who are very vocal when they feel that they are being treated unfairly. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 15:13

Pretorius stresses that there is "no legal barrier" against disciplinary action being taken against an official accused of a crime.

He questions why the ANC waits until the resolution of the criminal case before taking such action.

Ramaphosa argues that a situation may arise where the official is acquitted after being disciplined.

The "step aside" policy deals with this, he says, because it enables accused officials to "clear their name".

Zondo - who is an expert on labour law - is not convinced.

He questions why ordinary labour processes cannot be pursued.

Zondo: "Every organisation has its own rules, you can't let somebody who you believe has done something unacceptable to your organisation not be disciplined by your organisation because if you are going to wait for the outcome of a criminal case which might take three years and then there might be an appeal which might take another three years. By the time that process if finished how can have a disciplinary hearing? It's like you just wait for the courts when you can deal with the matters yourselves." 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 15:09

COMMENT | Zondo makes a valid point! This matter is not unique to the ANC.

If an employee is criminally charged, a company can embark on a disciplinary process internally separate from the criminal case.

He asks why this can’t be the case in the ANC.

Zondo says if you wait for the outcome of a criminal case which may take years, how can you say you will have a disciplinary hearing.

Why wait for the courts when the ANC can deal with matters internally. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 15:08

Justice Zondo points out how disciplinary hearings in government departments and court processes can take a long time, and says the ANC should consider its processes.

President Ramaphosa points out that a political organisation is very different to a company or any other workplace.

He says if people feel that they were treated unfairly they could disrupt the organisation and processes.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 15:08

Evidence leader Paul Pretorius: "Why wait for criminal proceedings to finish before the ANC takes internal action? There’s no necessary legal barrier why a disciplinary can’t be instituted before criminal proceedings are finished."

President Ramaphosa says if there was a charge of a serious crime, the ANC gives a member the chance to step aside and clear their name, and then could return, unless they're then being charged with bringing the ANC into disrepute by having stolen, for example, a chicken or money.

That is a different matter.

We thought then that the safest route is step aside, which provided for in our resolution, says Ramaphosa.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 15:07

Ramaphosa talks about people who are criminally charged and are then disciplined in the ANC, what happens if you are found not guilty.

He says the party decided that if you are charged, step aside and go clear their name. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 14:57

President Ramaphosa says the different government agencies acting against corruption prove that the political will is there.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 14:57

President Ramaphosa is asked to talk about what the ANC's conference said about corruption in the party. He says that was branch representatives at the conference "noting with a measure of sadness this is where we are, lacking the political will. It’s a proper analytical observation.

I agree with that."But he says it's not true that the entire leadership is captured. The resolution meant that the delegates at the conference wanted leaders to do something about corruption. Ramaphosa says leaders have to prove that they want to act on it, and he says "the political will is there, unquestionably".

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 14:53

“There was talk that the commission could tear the ANC apart. We were brave enough, courageous enough, to say this is a necessary process that we must go through, as part of our own renewal process”, Ramaphosa says.

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 14:49

COMMENT | Ramaphosa says the commission is a cathartic process for the ANC. He says it is difficult for the ANC. Three years into the commission, there are still ANC NEC members that believe the commission should not be supported. In all fairness, Ramaphosa had to fight his party to manifestly support the Zondo Commission when his political opponents in the party have bad-mouthed and sought to undermine the commission.

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 14:49

"It seems to me Mr President, that because of the influence that the ANC has in society and because it is the majority party…the government is its government. It has a very important role to play in where the country is going and if one looks at the type of issues that the commission is investigating, one can see that, whatever the ANC say we did, didn’t work. It didn’t work. That’s why corruption has reached the levels that it has reached.” Zondo to Ramaphosa.

-  Karyn Maughan

29 April 14:47

Justice Zondo tells President Ramaphosa that the ANC won't be able to change the issue of corruption unless it confronts painful issues:

"The ANC can’t do so by looking at those things that are comfortable for its to change. It can’t make a meaningful impact, it can’t make a serious contribution to make a meaningful impact on state capture unless it confronts things that are painful, and to say to change things, we have to feel." Says Ramaphosa must touch on this when he comes back to testify as the country's president.

President Ramaphosa agrees and says there was even talk that this commission could tear the ANC apart. "We are prepared to say this was a necessary process we had to go through as part of our renewal," he says, and tells a story about an old eagle who could no longer catch its prey. It had to shed its claws and feathers so that it could soar even higher after.

"This commission is a cathartic moment for the ANC, it is a very difficult process for the ANC to go through," Ramaphosa says.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 14:42

Ramaphosa says over time you can see the price paid as a result of corruption. He says people are deprived of good service delivery because funds are “diverted”. He says corruption is impacting us on an economic level and on a social level. He says it affects the ANC too and diminished support in elections for the party. 

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 14:42

President Ramaphosa responds to the question by Pretorius: "I do state it quite clearly in my opening statement that over the period, including the period under review there’s been recognition of the malaise of corruption in the ANC and what I said earlier before the break about this issue of incumbency, that we got into government and we were robed with powers of the state and ability to manage resources, dispense patronage. We have accepted and admitted in the past that this has resulted in a number of deviant type of behaviours.

We recognised this all the time and said we need to act against it. With the elapse of time we’ve seen the cries from the people as a whole that they’re being deprived of service delivery, as resources are being plundered, a dent in our economy, on the social level it’s having an impact, and it’s also having an impact on the ANC itself because it results in a down on the party discipline, morality, and our principles.

The ANC becomes a lot less attractive to ordinary citizens to support it, and it leads to election loss and diminishing support.

With this in mind, we decided to plug those holes so that the ANC can renew itself, regenerate itself, because if we don’t we will be on a one-way ticket to oblivion, to defeat at the polls."

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 14:41

Ramaphosa facing questions from Pretorius about the PPE procurement scandal that hit the ANC in August 2020 - at the height of the Covid-19 scandal. Pretorius says the language used by the president and the party in responding to that corruption scandal was the strongest ever used.

But - he asks - what is it about SA society that, after Ramaphosa claimed a "line in the sand" had been drawn against corruption, he had to again slam the "hyenas" who were looting during a pandemic. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 14:40

Pg 942. Dealing with 'We need to take responsibility' - further with ANC corruption. Pretorius asks, in 2019 a line was drawn. What is it about corruption and how can it be explained? What is it about our society that in 2020 you have to say what you have to say; when that line has been drawn?

29 April 14:40

Advocate Paul Pretorius talks Ramaphosa through statements he made in August 2020 where he famously said the party was “drawing a line in the sand” related to corruption. Pretorius notes that the “line was drawn in the sand” many times. He asks Ramaphosa what is about corruption that prompts such statements.

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 14:12

Ramaphosa's evidence at the State Capture has resumed. The President has agreed to testify until 5pm.

29 April 13:31

As the ANC delegation leaves for lunch, deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte greets spokesperson Pule Mabe, who arrived at the commission late. "Are you okay?" she asks him, and he laughs and says yes. When asked about this on the sidelines of the commission, Mabe said to News24 the SIU never mentioned his name in their investigation into the waste picking Enviro Mobi tender, so he's not concerned about it.

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 13:13

COMMENT | While we lunch, let's take a pause and acknowledge how healthy and encouraging it is to see a sitting president being questioned by senior advocates in full public glare. It is a very democratic moment and we should acknowledge that, too. 

- Adriaan Basson

29 April 13:07

COMMENT | True, Carien. The difference though is that the ANC constitutes national government, is in charge of executive appointments and decisions, and has been found to run an enormous patronage network. I'd argue you draw the line hard and fast!

- Pieter du Toit

29 April 13:02

COMMENT | True, Carien. The difference though is that the ANC constitutes national government, is in charge of executive appointments and decisions, and has been found to run an enormous patronage network. I'd argue you draw the line hard and fast! 

- Pieter du Toit

29 April 12:58

Pretorius now points to evidence that SSA funding was used to disrupt the CR17 campaign and to fund ANC party activities. Ramaphosa says he has heard about the latter but has no direct evidence of it. The President will face further questions about the SSA when he returns to the commission, Pretorius says. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 12:57

COMMENT | I don’t know why Ramaphosa is feigning ignorance about the disruption of the CR17 campaign by the SSA. It was stated in the report given to him by the high panel review led by former minister Sydney Mufumadi. Does he not read the reports he commissions?

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 12:52

COMMENT | Spot-on, Qaanitah. Theory ain't practice.

- Pieter du Toit

29 April 12:52

COMMENT | Ramaphosa again talks about a utopia where businesses donate to the ANC without expecting anything. It simply doesn’t happen this way. One may argue that corrupt businesses donate to the ANC as a ‘protection fee’ against scrutiny. It is no secret that the ANC relies on donations from business people who do business with the state. Just like the case of the Guptas, there is always a payback expected.

- Qaanitah Hunter

29 April 12:51

Pretorius now being asked about the Free State asbestos scam - where Blackhead Consulting made hundreds of millions of rands for work that it outsourced for R21million. Ace Magashule is one of the accused in a pending criminal case. In response to questions from Pretorius about whether it's appropriate for the benefits of state procurement to be channelled back to the ANC, Ramaphosa says there is a "huge question mark over this" - but again stresses that the Political Party Funding Act will ensure that such donations are properly monitored. 

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 12:51

COMMENT | Pieter, in the same vein as previous arguments around cadre deployment, the president might argue that all parties in Parliament require levies from their public representatives. Question is where do you draw the line?

- Carien du Plessis

29 April 12:45

COMMENT | Such an enormous grey area, and hugely problematic. ANC public representatives, civil servants, ambassadors all required to pay a monthly levy to the ANC. Is this then used as leverage, to buy appointments to certain positions? The more you donate, the better job you get?

- Pieter du Toit 

29 April 12:44

President Ramaphosa is asked about ANC deployees given debit forms to give money to ANC on a monthly basis, as two ambassadors have claimed. He says: "When I was in business I signed a debit form and money was docked for the ANC as per ANC money. Those who become known who are active in places where the ANC knows you are getting a salary – representing the ANC in the legislature, local government, we pay levies to the ANC. In the same way, if you are CEO or chair of one of the entities [presumably SOEs, etc]. Or if you are an ANC member. I know when I was SG [in the 1990s] I used to solicit members of the private sector to sign levy forms. Anyone I know who was a member of the ANC, I would say, sign a form and give money, and because you’re in the private sector give more money. Where some would give R1000 or R2000 I would give R10000 or R15000 [as a businessman]. Even ambassadors, they wouldn’t do it because they’re appointed as ambassadors, they would do it because they’re ANC members."

- Carien du Plessis 

29 April 12:44

Ramaphosa confirms that he himself has paid monthly debits to the ANC and in fact solicited members of the party who were in the private sector to provide monthly levies to it. He says he has a "huge question mark" over allegations that these donations were sought from ambassadors who were not members of the ANC.

- Karyn Maughan

29 April 12:43

News24 in October 2020 broke the story about claims from civil servants to Zondo that they have to pay the party a monthly levy to help support the party:

EXCLUSIVE: ANC runs 'kickback' scheme among ambassadors and diplomats, senior officials tell Zondo

The ANC has been rocked by explosive allegations it is soliciting kickbacks from South Africans appointed to diplomatic and ambassadorial positions overseas. 

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