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Cyril Ramaphosa 'should apologise' before the Zondo commission

Apology for 'ethical wrongs' in capture saga will regain 'trust'

09 December 2018 - 00:04 By QAANITAH HUNTER and SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA
President Cyril Ramaphosa's apology to the Zondo commission of inquiry will be for the ANC's failure to act sooner against state capture, but not for any crimes committed.
President Cyril Ramaphosa's apology to the Zondo commission of inquiry will be for the ANC's failure to act sooner against state capture, but not for any crimes committed.
Image: Themba Hadebe / POOL / AFP

President Cyril Ramaphosa will be advised to apologise to the nation for the ANC's failure to act sooner against state capture enablers when he wraps up the party's evidence before the Zondo commission of inquiry in 2019.

Senior officials and leaders at Luthuli House told the Sunday Times that Ramaphosa will be advised, "at the tail end of the commission", to offer an apology for not having "acted stronger in instances when we should have" - to save face ahead of the general elections.

It's unclear if Ramaphosa will accept or heed the advice, as some close to him say it's too early to commit to an apology now while the commission still has some way to go.

This comes as there is acceptance within the ANC that the party has suffered reputational damage, with some appearing before the commission implicating it in state capture.

Insiders said this strategy was discussed in an election campaign meeting where it was decided that the ANC should use the commission to win lost ground.

The party's national chair, Gwede Mantashe, has already appeared to explain the meetings the party held with SA's commercial banks after they closed Gupta bank accounts.

An ANC national executive committee (NEC) member said Ramaphosa would have to "humble himself before the commission" and find ways to "mend the trust deficit" between ordinary South Africans and the ANC.

"The advice is to apologise for not speaking out and acting sooner. To humble himself and say as the organisation we are sorry for not acting against state capture," an NEC member close to Ramaphosa said. 

But, he said, Ramaphosa would not apologise for crimes committed.

"A crime is a crime. People must be held accountable and the law must take its course. That's what he will say to the commission. The apology must be for, if we turned a blind eye to ethically wrong things, we are sorry," the NEC member said.

The apology must be for, if we turned a blind eye to ethically wrong things, we are sorry
NEC member

But head of the ANC presidency Zizi Kodwa said any talk of an apology was jumping the gun as the party had not taken any legal advice about what Ramaphosa should tell deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

"The ANC will speak for itself towards the end of the commission … there are questions we can't run away from. What did we know? What did we not know? What did we do? And what was not done?"

Kodwa reiterated that his party was not on trial at the commission. He said even though some party leaders were implicated, that did not mean that they had the party's permission to commit the crimes.

"The ANC will not take any collective responsibility on behalf of individuals."

Kodwa revealed that Mantashe would return to the commission early in 2019 to explain the party's deployment policy in response to evidence delivered by former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan.

Should there be more evidence that implicates the party, another leader will go. Ramaphosa will only go towards the end of the hearings.

"He [Ramaphosa] can't make that submission when the commission has not done its work," said Kodwa.

Those involved in carving out the party's election strategy said recent meetings discussed how an apology could help the party recover lost support before the elections.

ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula said the party realised that state capture caused mistrust between the masses and the ANC. He said, however, that the establishment of the commission had created some optimism that Ramaphosa would deal broadly with corruption and state capture.

"Now we got a commission that is dealing with issues arising from state capture. People appreciate the fact that something is happening," he said.

He said public sentiment towards the party has improved since the start of the commission.

"We are not where it was a year ago, where there was denial of state capture," Mbalula said.

An ANC leader close to Ramaphosa said the president was the only one who could do damage control.

"Usually the secretary-general would have to articulate the position of the party, but in this instance both the SG [Ace Magashule] and his deputy [Jessie Duarte] are implicated in state capture," the leader said.

A source close to Ramaphosa said the president wants to be prepared when he appears before the Zondo commission.

The source said the president does not want to present mere hearsay to the commission.

"We will have to find a way to use cabinet minutes to show that just because he was deputy president he was not complicit in these things," the source said.

Mbalula compared state capture to a sore where "you can't clean a sore without going deep into it - just dressing the wound won't help".

He added: "Overall our posture is to win back the trust of the people. The barometer of the last election showed there was a trust deficit between us and voters."


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