🔒 Ramaphosa admits: ANC lost its way – but we’re working to fix it

EDINBURGH — The absence at the World Economic Forum of world leaders like US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who both cancelled their attendance to focus on domestic problems, has created a space for others to get their message across. Not missing this opportunity is President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been working hard to impress corporate bosses and other potential investors considering injecting funds into South Africa. He is on a campaign to get the message across that the ANC leadership understands that the party has lost its way – but it is working on getting it back onto the track it was on in the years when Nelson Mandela was president. Ramaphosa spoke to The New York Times about the ANC clean-up operation. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

President Cyril Ramaphosa has told world leaders that his corruption-ridden party, the African National Congress, had lost its founding values and now faced a “Damascus moment” in trying to regain the people’s confidence and support.

That’s according to The New York Times, which interviewed the South African president at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

“We have said to ourselves: ‘We cannot carry on like this. We have deviated from the values and the principles that have always defined the ANC,’” Ramaphosa said in his interview.

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“People have lost confidence in us,” continued Ramaphosa, who will lead his party in national elections expected to be held in May.

“Repeating the message he was pushing at the forum, Mr. Ramaphosa said efforts to clean up the African National Congress were already underway. And he pledged to return the party of Nelson Mandela to its past glory.”

Read also: ANC’s policy of trying to adopt right and left wing polices may trip it up – Stephens

Revelations from a continuing high-level inquiry into corruption during the tenure of scandal-tainted Jacob Zuma, have led his country to a “cathartic moment,” the South African leader reportedly said.

“That sort of moment — Damascus moment for us — has actually enabled us to get to grip with what needs to be done,” he said. He added, “We will be able to turn a new chapter on the life of our country, rid of corruption.”

Ramaphosa is pushing to attract investments with a view to “jolting” South Africa’s sluggish economy, says The New York Times.

But the US-based media outlet points out that, since becoming president last February, Ramaphosa has been unable to fulfil his promises to deliver growth and more jobs.

He has started to clean out certain ministries, agencies and state enterprises, removing key allies of Mr. Zuma under whom corruption flourished, but his support in the ANC is “uncertain”.

“Though the ANC is expected to win the most votes, it is far from clear whether Mr. Ramaphosa will get a big enough victory to claim a mandate and aggressively root out corruption, as his allies say he wants to do.

“For now, several political allies of Mr. Zuma who have long been accused of corruption serve in his cabinet or at the highest levels of the party. And Mr. Ramaphosa’s own government has been tainted by allegations of the same sort of self-dealing that led to the ouster of Mr. Zuma.”

Read also: Exposed: How Zuma friends tried to steal R45m to buy ANC votes

Most prominently, points out The New York Times, is the presence of David Mabuza, a longtime leader of a small province where corruption was endemic. Mabuza has been accused of siphoning money meant for education and other services to finance his meteoric rise in national politics — and deliver the votes that gave Ramaphosa a slim victory in party elections in December 2017.

“When an article detailing Mr. Mabuza’s rise was published in The Times last August, the deputy president was questioned in Parliament by opposition lawmakers and even criticised by members of his own party in the news media. Mr. Ramaphosa did not comment on Mr. Mabuza then.

“Asked about his deputy in the interview Wednesday, Mr. Ramaphosa defended him, though not forcefully,” says The New York Times.

“None of the issues that have been alleged against him has, as far as I know, been brought to either the police or the criminal justice system,”  Ramaphosa said. The country’s prosecutors, he said, would act “without fear, prejudice or favour” should such evidence emerge.

But the national prosecuting authority is one of the government institutions that were weakened during Zuma’s presidency, points out the US news organisation. “Despite a series of scandals that have rocked the country, few have been held to account for large-scale corruption that has put South Africa’s future in question.”

Ramaphosa clearly has much work to do to convince international onlookers that the ANC has turned over a new leaf.

In recent years, The New York Times tells its readers, the ANC, which once inspired people across Africa and the world, has come to symbolise deep-rooted corruption.

“Party leaders have stolen tens of billions of dollars meant to lift up poor black South Africans. They have gutted key government institutions like the tax agency, to gain better access to government accounts. They have even taken to eliminating rivals, in Mafia-like assassinations.”