Cyril Ramaphosa says history will absolve him for his approach on tackling corruption
Cape Town - President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday history would vindicate his approach to curbing rampant corruption, but acknowledged public frustration at the slow pace of the process and the lack of high profile arrests.
He told a meeting with the South African National Editors' Forum he was convinced that there would ultimately be a general understanding that it took time to right state institutions, from the South African Revenue Service to the National Prosecuting Authority, that were compromised by political scandal.
"We are trying to rebuild and inadvertently all of these things, as they don't happen, will rest on the head of the president. Why are you not putting this one in jail, why are you not acting?
"And I say, you know, history will absolve me, because the determination to put things right is there, and we may be moving at a slow pace and we may be moving at a pace where people want faster movement but we are painstakingly putting things right" Ramaphosa said.
"I think we have now reached the stage where the change we all want to see, will start unfolding."
The president stressed that his only intervention could be the capacitation of law enforcement agencies, many eviscerated during the so-called state capture era of rent-seeking.
He said they have pleaded for more staff and resources consistently asked for more resources to enable them to expedite their work, adding that he kept an open door.
"Some of them were broken piece by piece. We have committed to provide them with resources where resources are needed so that they can speed up their work. That is as far as my discussion with them go, for the rest they must do their work. All I can do is to capacitate them."
In a wide-ranging conversation that repeatedly circled back to corruption highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic ravages of the health crisis, Ramaphosa said he had largely expected the massive GDP contraction confirmed on Tuesday by Statistics South Africa.
"I see Covid-19 as a game changer in as far as fighting corruption and repositioning our economy," he said.
Ramaphosa said economic recovery would in part rest on the pursuit of an infrastructure drive he described as "low-hanging fruit" but said a comprehensive plan was being fine-tuned.
He conceded that his office would be central to the effort, though National Treasury was the lead department, because only the presidency had "line of sight" of the activities of all government departments.
This shift was suggested on Tuesday when the presidency swiftly responded to news that the GDP had contracted by 51 percent in the second quarter, while Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said he would supply his reaction at the weekend in a newspaper column.
Ramaphosa sidestepped a point-blank question as to whether, as rumoured, he was planning to reshuffle his Cabinet, both to reinforce the anti-corruption message as to hasten implementation of government policies in the wake of the health crisis.
"I don't know, would you like to see changes?" he quipped.
He said it was obvious that there would be resistance to rooting out corruption because those who had enriched themselves would want to do so for longer.
Amid an outcry over officials pocketing relief funds in tender deals for personal protective equipment. Ramaphosa at the end of August faced off against his opponents within the African National Congress (ANC) to announce that people facing serious charges must step down from their posts.
However, there is public resentment about the fact that they continue to draw full salaries while on suspension.
The president said it was worth considering whether party officials, unlike civil servants, should be allowed to retain their salaries while they are being investigated.
"We must look out for some silver linings beneath this Covid-19 cloud and one of those is that from now on when it comes to procurement we need to have transparency, the kind of transparency that will enable our people to know what the money that they pay in taxes is going to be used for so that we are able to rid out country of procurement corruption."
African News Agency/ANA