Ramaphosa promises to tackle graft

2 May 19

South Africa’s president has pledged to intensify the battle against corruption in the final phase of campaigning for general elections next week.

Cyril Ramaphosa vowed that his government would address a problem that economic development minister Ebrahim Patel has estimated may cost the country 27 billion rand ($1.9bn) a year.

A series of speeches and comments by the president promising to fight graft are likely to be seen as an effort to limit the damage it is inflicting on the ruling African National Congress.

“We are going to make sure those who are found to be accountable, have to be accountable before the law,” Ramaphosa told a May Day rally of the Cosatu trade union federation at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium.

“In the end corruption is not only corruption against the state, it is corruption against the people of South Africa.”

In power since 1994, the image of the ANC has been tarnished by successive corruption scandals involving senior officials, and support for the party has slid over perceptions that not enough is being done to tackle graft.

In 2018 Africa’s second largest economy fell to number 73 in Transparency International’s global measure of perceived corruption – down from 38 in 2001.

Ramaphosa himself was propelled into power by anger over allegations of widespread corruption during the presidency of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, from 2009 until 2018.

The former presdient resigned amid a whirlwind of corruption allegations and a loss of confidence in his leadership in South Africa’s parliament and within the ANC.

However, according to Reuters, since Ramaphosa took over, no senior government official has been convicted for corruption, enabling opposition parties to capitalise on growing public frustration in their campaigns for the 8 May election.

While opinion polls show that the ANC still enjoys majority support, some 50 parties are challenging it for the backing of 26.75 million voters, and polls show the likely mandate of the ruling party to be in consistent decline.

The ANC has set up four separate judicial enquiries into corruption in which allegations of fraud and bribery have surfaced, implicating executives at state-run firms, sitting cabinet ministers and high-profile business leaders.

UPDATE at 1.30pm on 24/5/19:

Since this story was written, the ANC has won the election with a majority and Cyril Ramaphosa sworn in by South African legislators without contest.

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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