The Guptas, Steinhoff and state capture feature in Ramaphosa's Steve Biko lecture

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President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)
President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: Ruvan Boshoff, AFP)

The Gupta family, the Steinhoff scandal and the state capture commission of inquiry have found their way into the lecture which President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered in honour of struggle icon Steve Biko.

Ramaphosa delivered the 19th edition of the annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture at the University of South Africa on Friday evening.

"We now know of powerful individuals who used positions of authority to plunder the resources of the state, threatening our economic sustainability and further impoverishing our people," he said.

He acknowledged with "shame" and "regret" that, after more 20 years since the dawn of democracy, current leaders have not lived up to the standards set by leaders such as Biko.

Earlier, a group of students protested against the Biko Foundation's decision to have the president deliver a lecture in honour of Biko, as the country marks 41 years since he died in incarceration at the hands of apartheid police.

The female students, who sang "Biko Wethu"(Our Biko) and wore T-shirts bearing the words "Azanian women remember Marikana", held up placards.

The presidential protection unit removed some placards, which read: "Biko Foundation, how could you? Sies."

Ramaphosa's speech, which focused on Biko's pursuit of finding the humanity in everyone, called on the wealthy to plough back into communities in need.

Without mentioning the recent Steinhoff scandal, which affected billions of pension fund investments, or disgraced Steinhoff CEO Marcus Jooste, the president referred to business people whose reckless and fraudulent actions eroded the savings of many ordinary people.

He also did not mention the infamous Gupta family by name. Instead, he spoke of the actions of a family which had adverse effects on the country.

"Astounded as we are by the devastating audacity of one family and their associates, we should not be blinded to the corruption that has taken [hold] in many institutions across government. This requires firm, decisive and united action," said Ramaphosa.

The Guptas are accused of having undue influence over former president Jacob Zuma, using it to loot from state coffers and make executive decisions.

"We have begun the work, but there is much more to do. Commissions of inquiry, disciplinary hearings, criminal prosecution and lengthy prison sentences are necessary instruments to tackle this scourge," he said to some cheers.

Ramaphosa's comments come after Zuma's remarks at Walter Sisulu University this week, in which he described state capture as a "politically-decorated expression".

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