Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS

The government will be embarking on a "massive project" to get back the money stolen through corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday.

He was speaking at the Gauteng ANC’s provincial elective conference in Irene, where he said corruption should not be tolerated in any shape or form in the ranks of the ANC.

The government has estimated that a staggering R100bn has been looted from the country through state capture and corruption in recent years, and the President now says his government is set to move to recoup that money.

"There are billions that have been siphoned out ... we must now say we want that money back," Ramaphosa told delegates at the Gauteng conference. He said the money had to be recouped to fund health and education for the people of SA.

In a wide-ranging address that touched on corruption, health, the economy and the ANC’s renewal, Ramaphosa admitted that the 2019 national election was set to be "hard fought", particularly for Gauteng.

The province is a key battle ground in 2019 with opposition parties hard at work to snatch the country’s economic heartland from the ANC, after its poor showing in both the last national and local government elections. That culminated in the ANC’s loss of two key metros — Tshwane and Johannesburg.

Ramaphosa warned party members that internal fighting among ANC leaders and members also eroded public support for the party. Infighting in the ANC has continued unabated since its national conference in December, with numerous court challenges to provincial elective gatherings, including the one under way in Gauteng.

He said when the public saw "disunity" in the party ranks, they walked away, and admitted frankly that infighting directly resulted in a loss of votes.

Ramaphosa again repeated that the ANC wanted the love of the people back, a message he also delivered to professionals in Gauteng in June. "Its in our hands to restore the image and position of the ANC … go give the people the ANC they love, trust and want to support," he said.

Ramaphosa said the tendency of ANC members to instigate violent and destructive protests should also come to an end. His comments follow a Municipal IQ study indicating that protests in SA at local level had reached a record high in 2018.

"We can’t have a situation where members of the ANC, Sanco (the South African National Civic Organisation) and the alliance … get involved in protests and are the ones who lead violent protests … this must come to a stop with immediate effect," he said. ANC members should instead be helping communities to seek constructive solutions to their problems.

Ramaphosa also urged the party’s leaders at national level to stop interfering in the election of leaders in the provinces. "A number of our structures are saying ‘president, we wish national leaders of the ANC would stop interfering in the choice of leaders in the provinces’," he said.

The Gauteng elective conference is set to elect new leaders on Friday and Saturday. Former Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile was elevated to the ANC’s national treasurer at the party’s national conference in December. He is expected to be replaced by deputy chairman David Makhura, who is standing uncontested for the post.

The position of deputy chairman is now heavily contested between education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, economic development MEC Lebogang Maile as well as former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau. Lesufi built a profile in his post as MEC with a hands-on approach, after a lengthy period working for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, who was also among the ANC’s top brass in Gauteng.

Business Day understands that Lesufi had an early edge, judging from nominations from the regions, including parts of Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. But, while nominations can provide an early indication of support, they may not translate into actual votes at the conference.

The conference concludes on Sunday.