South Africa’s ANC Takes Responsbility for Graft, Ramaphosa Says

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the nation’s ruling party had to take responsibility for the endemic corruption that took root during his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s rule, even though the majority of its leaders and members vehemently opposed it.

The government estimates more than 500 billion rand ($35 billion) was stolen from state coffers during Zuma’s nine-year tenure. Dozens of witnesses who’ve testified before a judicial panel chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo since 2018 have implicated the former president in the looting spree.

The African National Congress acknowledges that “state capture took place under our watch” and it should have done more to prevent the abuse of power and misappropriation of resources, Ramaphosa told the panel in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Corruption had taken a huge toll on society and the economy, and those perpetuating it had to be held accountable and couldn’t rely on the ruling party for support, he said.

Ramaphosa served as Zuma’s deputy for almost four years and his critics accuse him of standing by while state institutions and companies were gutted of expertise, and inept or corrupt staff were appointed to key posts.

‘Covert Activity’

“Corruption is by its nature a covert activity” and those perpetuating it tried to keep their actions hidden, making it difficult to confront, Ramaphosa said.

He defended the ANC’s practice of deploying its members to key positions in government, saying it was common practice in other countries. Even so, public servants needed to be appropriately qualified, and those that were complicit in corruption did so in violation of the party’s rules, he said.

Ramaphosa’s appearance before the panel this week comes six months ahead of municipal elections, in which the ANC hopes to seek to reclaim control of several major cities that it lost to opposition coalitions in 2016.

Zuma picked Ramaphosa as his running mate when he sought re-election as leader of the ANC in 2012, bringing him back into active politics after a stint in business that saw him become one of the country’s wealthiest Black citizens. The two fell out after Zuma backed his ex-wife to succeed him as ANC leader in 2017, a race she narrowly lost to Ramaphosa.

Zuma has defied a Constitutional Court order to testify before Zondo, who he accuses of bias, and is awaiting a ruling from the court as to whether he is guilty of contempt. The panel has requested the court to jail him for two years.

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