South African Prez Ramaphosa announces sweeping reforms to fight corruption

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he will implement sweeping reforms in response to recommendations from a judicial panel that investigated corruption during the disastrous rule of his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

The president has pledged to review and rethink the country’s entire anti-corruption architecture, ban ministers from participating in public company procurement, introduce new laws regulating the issuance of government contracts and guarantee better protection for whistleblowers.

“The people of South Africa are tired of corruption and want it to stop,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday, a day after submitting a 76-page report to parliament detailing his response to the damning findings. of the committee headed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. The government is committed to fighting corruption “in all its forms, in all sectors of government and in all spheres of state”, he said.

Zondo spent four years probing corruption during Zuma’s nearly nine-year tenure – a practice known locally as state capture. More than 300 witnesses described how government departments and enterprises were plundered of billions of rand by the former president’s allies, with his tacit consent. Ramaphosa has previously said that at least 500 billion rand ($28 billion) was stolen from the state during his predecessor’s tenure.

The Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based body that monitors compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing measures, is calling on the government to address shortcomings in its illicit finance controls by October. There is a threat of adding South Africa to a list of countries that face increased surveillance if the government does not implement these measures.

Ramaphosa’s announcement can reassure the public that the government is taking “the necessary corrective action to get us out of the state we were in and that there is political will to continue to do so,” he said. Ongama Mtimka, a political analyst at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha, said by telephone.

The bulk of Zondo’s recommendations were directed at law enforcement, who were told to investigate 202 government officials, businesspeople and entities.

So far, the investigations branch of the National Prosecuting Authority has filed 26 related cases and opened 89 investigations, and 165 people involved have appeared in court, according to Ramaphosa. Authorities also recovered R2.9 billion and froze or obtained preservation orders against another R12.9 billion in assets.

Zondo discovered that several senior officials, including Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe and Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa, had accepted payments from companies seeking contracts with the state and recommended that prosecutors consider charging them.

In his report to parliament, Ramaphosa said he would review the findings against members of his executive “and determine, on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with his discretion in this regard and his obligation to observe the principle of legality and act rationally whether or not an action should be taken.

Ramaphosa is expected to seek re-election as ANC leader in December, limiting his room to act against other party heavyweights whose support he may need to win the leadership race. Mantashe and Kodwa, who are closely linked to the president, both denied any wrongdoing and said they would seek judicial review of Zondo’s finding.

While Zondo recommended that the government establish a permanent anti-corruption commission and an independent anti-corruption agency in public procurement, Ramaphosa said these proposals needed further consideration in light of reforms already underway. .

The chief justice’s proposals to change the electoral system and elect the president directly would also require constitutional changes and a broad process of consultation and deliberation involving the whole of society, he said.

Zondo was scathing in his criticism of Ramaphosa for failing to speak out against the looting in the five years he served as Zuma’s deputy, and the ruling African National Congress, which he said had done nothing to stamp out corruption in its ranks. The president did not directly respond to these allegations.

While Ramaphosa remains the favorite in the party leadership race, his image has been further tarnished by a scandal over the theft of foreign currency from his game farm in 2020. Opposition parties have accused him of not have properly reported the crime and questioned whether they violated tax or exchange control rules.

Law enforcement is looking into the case and parliament is awaiting a panel’s recommendation on whether to pursue impeachment proceedings against Ramaphosa.

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