Ramaphosa takes a stand on corruption in letter to ANC members
President vows in unprecedented move the party will take steps to deal with graft
President Cyril Ramaphosa took the unprecedented step on Sunday of writing directly to the ANC’s more than a million members promising them that the party will take steps to deal with corruption.
The move indicates how severely stung Ramaphosa has been by latest corruption revelations, which have exposed high-profile ANC members, including people close to him, as so ethically bankrupt they would seek profit from a pandemic in which lives are at risk.
Ramaphosa relies on ANC newsletters to communicate with members, usually through the republication of his formal speeches and presidential letter.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said Ramaphosa’s letter is being distributed to all party members through various networks, social media and the machinery of the party’s department of information and publicity. The letter will also be uploaded onto the ANC’s website and published in its weekly newsletter, ANC Today.
Ramaphosa said ANC members accused of or involved in corruption have to account to the party’s integrity commission immediately or face disciplinary processes, and that those who fail to give an acceptable explanation, or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary action, will be summarily suspended.
While ANC internal discipline procedures exist, members are seldom charged for corruption or for bringing the organisation into disrepute.
He said the ANC should also conduct lifestyle audits of all its leaders and public representatives, and develop a clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state. The party leaders should also make regular declarations of financial interests.
There has been outrage in the country over corruption and with how Ramaphosa — who rose to the presidency on an anticorruption ticket — has been tackling it within his own party and the government.
This comes as the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing Covid-19 corruption, especially in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Possible tender irregularities in the procurement of PPE in Gauteng have already led to the president’s spokesperson Khusela Diko and the province’s health MEC, Bandile Masuku, taking leave of absence pending the outcome of the SIU investigations.
Ramaphosa said in the letter that the anger over corruption is justified.
“Today, the ANC and its leaders stand accused of corruption. The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as accused No 1,” he said.
Corruption in the ANC is rooted in factional politics, which is why the organisation fails time and again to live up to its promises, analysts say.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the impact of Ramaphosa’s letter will depend on the influence and power he has in the ANC, and his willingness to take risks to make a legacy for himself.
Fikeni said as long as corruption exists within factional lines in the ANC, the party cannot give effect to what Ramaphosa is saying.
“The only way they can give effect [to Ramaphosa’s intentions] is when he is able to have a critical mass within the ANC that will say ‘enough is enough’, especially the ANC NEC [national executive committee] and that in itself is unlikely to come from within the ANC because it is profoundly compromised to the core.”
There would be no moral authority if the “politics of blackmail” — threatening to retaliate if someone is acted against — continues, Fikeni said.
“That can only change if the public, not the ANC, [become] so outraged, take action and indicate that the ANC is about to lose elections if they do not change their ways. Then you will have some people who will say, ‘let’s do something because we will lose power’,” Fikeni said.
The ANC government and the party have made so many promises that the only time they will have credibility is when Ramaphosa himself “manages to marshal the courage that we have not seen yet from his side in that he draws the line and he is prepared to lose power if his principle and position is not followed”.
Ramaphosa said the lack of integrity “seriously damaged the ANC’s image, the people’s trust in the ANC, our ability to occupy the moral high ground and our position as leader of society”.
The ANC cannot hope to win back people’s trust if “we continue to allow cadres who are charged with criminal conduct for corruption to occupy positions of responsibility within [the] government and our movement”, said Ramaphosa.
This comes as corruption accused and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was sworn in on Wednesday as an ANC MPL in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, despite facing charges relating to a R430m solid waste tender for the city that caused her to be stripped of the mayoral chain in 2019.
“Those who see the ANC as a path to wealth, to power, to influence or status must know that they do not belong in our movement. They must change their ways or they must leave.”
With Luyolo Mkentane
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