President Ramaphosa promises ‘decisive’ measures against corruption

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, faced with the disillusionment of a country plunged into a difficult social and economic climate, promised Thursday in his annual address on the state of the nation “decisive” measures to eradicate corruption.

The conclusions of a four-year investigation into corruption during the presidency of his predecessor Jacob Zuma, between 2009 and 2018, a period nicknamed in the country the “lost nine years”, were recently communicated to him. Some 1,400 pages and a final part must be returned by the anti-corruption commission of Judge Rayomond Zondo by the end of the month. Mr. Ramaphosa will then have to announce possible legal proceedings.

But already, the Head of State has promised to parliamentarians that “the fight against corruption will gain in intensity”. Cyril Ramaphosa has made corruption his battle horse, particularly within the historic ruling party, the ANC, fueling a factional war. However, he too was called to testify before Judge Raymond Zondo’s anti-corruption commission of inquiry.

“No later than June 30, I will present an action plan,” he said, adding “we must do everything in our power to ensure that this never happens again.”

Hammering that it is now time “to take stock”, the Head of State also undertook to strengthen the protection of whistleblowers, “who constitute an essential guarantee in the fight against corruption and take risks enormous in exposing wrongdoing”.

In August, Babita Deokaran, 53, a regional health worker and key witness in a case of embezzlement of several million euros in the context of contracts for the purchase of protective equipment against Covid, was shot dead in Johannesburg.

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– “Symbol” –

Mr Ramaphosa delivered his solemn address in the evening from Cape Town City Hall, not in Parliament, which was ravaged by arson in January. A suspect has been charged.

“This fire is a symbol of the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise in unemployment and the worsening of poverty”, declared the president, who announced the preparation of a text of law allowing the lifting of the state of disaster imposed since the start of the pandemic almost two years ago. South Africa is the African country officially most affected by the virus with more than 3.6 million cases.

Already in recession, the economy of the continent’s leading industrial power has been severely hit by Covid. Unemployment has reached a new record level at 34.9% and affects nearly 65% ​​of young people.

“Unemployment has been caused by weak growth, caused by a long-term decline in our economy that has been going on for a number of years,” Ramaphosa said.

A socio-economic climate which in July fueled the most serious violence since the advent of the young democracy, originally triggered by the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma.

At 79, the former president was sentenced to a prison term for having stubbornly refused to testify before Judge Zondo. He has been on parole since September for medical reasons. The violence left more than 350 people dead.

In a report released on Monday, experts commissioned by the government to investigate the riots say “faction fighting within the ANC has become a serious source of instability”.

“The panel of experts felt that the cabinet must take overall responsibility for the events of July 2021. It is a responsibility that we recognize and accept,” said Cyril Ramaphosa.

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By December, the African National Congress must organize its elections, an internal vote that looks like a general election and another challenge for the current president who will have to ask the party to re-elect him at the head of the organization, to stay in power.

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