Ramaphosa calls for resilience as those accused of corruption fight back
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to be resilient in the face of an open fightback plan from those who benefited from state capture and other forms of corruption.
Closing the debate on the presidency’s budget vote in parliament on Thursday, Ramaphosa told MPs it was important for the country to unite against those who were resisting efforts to rid the public sector of corruption.
“It is essential that we are united as a people in our determination to fight corruption as a nation. In the last 18 months of working together, we have made significant advancements in tackling corruption and ending the capture of our public institutions. But the struggle is far from done, the road ahead will be long and will be difficult,” he said.
The president said both public representatives and citizens needed to remain steadfast in their resolve to stamp out corruption and state capture.
“We will continue to encounter resistance from those who have benefited from acts of criminality and wrongdoing,” he said.
While he did not mention anyone by name, Ramaphosa’s comments came just a day after former president Jacob Zuma told the commission of inquiry investigating state capture - led by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo - that he disagreed with how it was questioning him.
Zuma's supporters have also been speaking out against the commission since he started testifying before it on Monday.
Ramaphosa said the rule of law must be reinforced and respected.
Responding to claims by DA leader Mmusi Maimane that nobody was being arrested based on revelations from the Zondo and other similar commissions, Ramaphosa said he did not have the power to interfere with operations of law enforcement agencies.
“We will continue to together ensure that our institutions are independent and impartial and those institutions are given the task of safeguarding our democracy,” he said.
“If you expect the president to go out and arrest people involved in state capture and corruption it's not going to happen. It will be done by those institutions. They are the institutions who have the power and authority in terms of our laws,” he said.
Turning to what he called "an extraordinary attack" on public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan by EFF leader Julius Malema, Ramaphosa threw his weight behind his minister.
Ramaphosa said while he was not in a position to comment on the public protector’s findings against Gordhan, he could vouch for Gordhan's character and integrity.
“I know him to be a person of commitment and integrity. He has endured and withstood extreme pressure both under apartheid and in the democratic apartheid. He has been under pressure to abandon principle and to forsake his responsibility to the nation,” he said.
Ramaphosa pleaded that the law be allowed to take its course.
Gordhan has challenged a litany of findings by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane against him after she found, among other things, that he violated the constitution for his role in the establishment of the Sars "rogue unit" when he was commissioner of the tax service.
The president has also joined Gordhan’s review application of Mkhwebane’s report, saying in court papers this week that Gordhan had a bona fide case against her.
“If minister Gordhan or any minister of this administration has anything to answer for they must be held to account without exception. They must be hauled before any court and they must answer. I will be saying to him go and answer before a court of law,” Ramaphosa told parliament.
Responding to Maimane's call for Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment to be scrapped, Ramaphosa simply said that would not happen.
“It has brought real material benefits to black South Africans to women and persons with disability. It has contributed to the growth of a black middle class, to improvements in employment equity and it has enabled,” he said.
Ramaphosa said while transformation has been slow, the change that had been affected had been significant.
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