South Africa’s Ruling ANC Backs Ramaphosa’s Anti-Graft Fight

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa consolidated his hold on the ruling African National Congress, winning its unequivocal backing to continue leading the party and wage a battle against graft.

The party’s National Executive Committee agreed at a three-day meeting to take decisive action “to tackle corruption in our own ranks as the ANC and across society,” Ramaphosa told reporters in an online briefing on Monday. All officials who faced charges would be forced to vacate their posts and resign should they be convicted, he said.

Ramaphosa has struggled to assert his authority over the ANC since winning its presidency by a razor-thin margin in late 2017, with his detractors in the party undermining his efforts to resuscitate the struggling economy. Ex-President Jacob Zuma penned a letter to Ramaphosa last week accusing him of conduct that could destroy the ANC, while senior party member Tony Yengeni suggested the president step down because he faced allegations that he paid bribes to secure his post.

The NEC confirmed there appeared to be “a choreographed campaign” to undermine Ramaphosa, but downplayed reports of disunity within its ranks. Yengeni’s call for the president to quit never made it onto the agenda at its online meeting, which ended on Sunday, it said.

“We will ensure we work as a collective,” said Ace Magashule, the party’s secretary-general. “People have the right to raise their views. We engage, persuade one another.”

The rand gained as much as 1.8% against the U.S. dollar and was 1.6% stronger at 16.6678 by 12:36 p.m. in Johannesburg, paring Monday’s 2.1% decline.

Ramaphosa has been stung by revelations that more than 5 billion rand ($295 million) of state contracts for goods and services to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic were tainted by allegations of impropriety. Those alleged to have benefited include companies owned by the husband of his now-suspended spokeswoman Khusela Diko, and two of Magashule’s sons.

The party’s anti-graft campaign “is not a power contest -- what we are seeking to do is reposition the ANC,” Ramaphosa said. “The ANC needs to draw a clear line in the sand between the organization and those who steal from the people.”

Several senior ANC officials who are facing charges have already been ordered to vacate their posts. They include Bongani Bongo, who served as Zuma’s state security minister, and Zandile Gumede, a legislator in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

Other highlights:

  • The ANC intends to strengthen the role of its internal integrity commission to ensure errant officials are held to account.
  • Ramaphosa said data shows the country has passed the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but the danger of a second wave of infections remains high.
  • The NEC will convene a special meeting to discuss further measures needed to help the economy recover from the effects of the pandemic, because its current plan is insufficient.
  • Deputy President David Mabuza said he had been ill for a month, but that he is recovering and has been back at work for 10 days.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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