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Ramaphosa should have done more to fight state capture, says Zondo

An 'indictment on the party and its leadership' that internal dynamics kept them from fighting state capture

22 June 2022 - 22:29
The final part of the state capture report says President Cyril Ramaphosa should have done more to fight state capture. File photo.
The final part of the state capture report says President Cyril Ramaphosa should have done more to fight state capture. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Chief justice Raymond Zondo has found that President Cyril Ramaphosa opted to look the other way at the early signs of state capture when he served as former president Jacob Zuma's second in command.

Zondo has made the scathing finding against Ramaphosa contained in the state capture commission's final report he handed over to Ramaphosa on Wednesday evening at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“He claimed that he would have been dismissed if he had been more confrontational. This contention was analysed ... He must have believed that former president [Jacob] Zuma was complicit in state capture and was prepared to dismiss his deputy president to protect the state capture project. Yet he did not give any evidence as to why he believed this was the case.

“Had he tried to act in some way against corruption and state capture, and been rebuked? Had he seen others face these consequences from the former president?”

In one section, “What did he know, when did he know it, and what did he do about it?” — a phrased derived from Ramaphosa's own testimony during proceedings of the commission — Zondo detailed how some of Ramaphosa’s responses went some “way towards answering those questions but unfortunately leave some important gaps”.

“The president readily acknowledges the existence of state capture as a co-ordinated project and has made much of his drive to right the wrongs of state capture. However, the question of what he knew is still somewhat opaque.”

Furthermore, Zondo said: “Ramaphosa must have believed that the ruling party would not defend him in such a case and that the ANC would have protected a president who fired his deputy president for the crime of confronting corruption.

“This aligns with President Ramaphosa's broader contention that his ability to act was curtailed by the political reality of the time — the 'balance of forces' in power in the ruling party and in the national executive. This is an indictment on the party and its leadership.

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“However, his intervention in preventing the permanent appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister was effective. It worked, despite the balance of power.

“He was not dismissed and did not face any consequences for his action. It is difficult, then, to understand why other allegations in the public domain — in some cases made by loyal ANC members themselves — continued to go unaddressed for so long.

“President Ramaphosa asserted that those who pushed back from within were able to curb some of the excesses of state capture. Was this enough?

“It is indisputable that state capture continued during the years that President Ramaphosa was 'resisting', and that the consequences (to the economy, to government, to our society) have been severe. Money continued to be moved through illicit channels to private beneficiaries. Corruption continued to entrench itself within the institutions of the state.

“Considering the dire straits we find ourselves in, the effectiveness of President Ramaphosa's decision to remain within the state and party is not a given.”

Zondo went on to say: “While no counterfactual can be proven, we must ask whether these processes could have been arrested sooner had more powerful figures, like President Ramaphosa, been willing to act with more urgency.

“They instead chose to work 'strategically' from within. The crux of President Ramaphosa's 'balance of forces' explanation is that any other approach would not have been allowed by the ruling party, and he and others were unwilling to damage the ANC by publicly going against it.”

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