There's been progress but corruption remains 'great impediment' to growth — Cyril Ramaphosa during Sona

11 February 2021 - 20:32
By nonkululeko njilo AND Nonkululeko Njilo
President Cyril Ramaphosa reads through his state of the nation address notes on Thursday, just hours before speaking in parliament.
Image: GCIS President Cyril Ramaphosa reads through his state of the nation address notes on Thursday, just hours before speaking in parliament.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has labelled corruption as one of the greatest impediments to the country's growth and development, saying the matter needs urgent attention.

During his state of the nation address on Thursday night, Ramaphosa said the Zondo commission of inquiry continued to lay bare the extent of state capture and related corruption. Ramaphosa said the evidence emerging from the commission showed how the criminal justice system had been compromised and weakened.

“It is therefore vital that we sustain the momentum of the rebuilding effort that we began three years ago,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the country had made some strides in fighting corruption.

His address comes a week after the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) finalised investigations on Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement into 164 contracts with a total value of R3.5bn.

“When reports started to surface last year about possible fraud and corruption in the procurement of Covid-related goods and services, we acted decisively to put a stop to these practices, to investigate all allegations and to act against those responsible,” said Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address in Parliament, on February 11 2021. He addressed matters including vaccine rollouts, corruption, energy procurement and Covid-19 relief grant extensions.

This as he earlier warned the net was closing in on those implicated in the investigations after the SIU referred 38 cases to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for prosecution for fraud, corruption and contravention of supply-chain policies.

The SIU had instituted civil matters at the Special Tribunal to the value of R259m for review, which includes the recovery of state funds in relation to corrupt activities associated with the state of disaster.

The proceedings before the Special Tribunal also include the freezing of the pensions of officials who resigned while investigations were under way.

“There has been great progress in turning around law-enforcement bodies,” said Ramaphosa. He revealed that critical leadership positions had been filled with capable, experienced and trustworthy professionals.

“There is improved co-operation and sharing of resources between the respective law- enforcement agencies, enabling a more integrated approach to investigations and prosecutions,” the president said.

Outlining additional steps to fighting corruption, Ramaphosa said the national anti-corruption strategy, which lays the basis for a comprehensive and integrated society-wide response to corruption, would be implemented.

He said the government would soon appoint members of the national anti-corruption advisory council, which will oversee the initial implementation of the strategy and the establishment of an independent statutory anti-corruption body that reports to parliament.

Ramaphosa said a fusion centre was established, to bring together key law-enforcement agencies to share information and resources.

He applauded the work done by the centre, which he said had led to many cases going to trial and preserved or recovered millions of rand in public funds.