Cyril Ramaphosa tells Zondo commission he was unaware of the scale of corruption
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Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa contemplated resigning as Deputy President when evidence of state capture became increasingly clear.
He said many of these corrupt activities had taken place while he was unaware of them.
He also claimed that although he recommended Brian Molefe as chief executive of Eskom, he had "no idea" Molefe was close friends with the Gupta family and their associates.
Ramaphosa, who appeared at the Zondo Commission on Wednesday, said he and others in the government had grappled with how to respond to the mounting evidence of state capture.
In many instances, including appointments to the Eskom board, Ramaphosa told the Commission that he "did not recall", or his "recollection failed him". This was an excuse Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo did not seem to accept, saying that it was highly unlikely that a board of such importance went under the radar of a Deputy President.
He said, as with others in the country, he also became aware of state capture when media reports revealed the extent of the corruption.
Ramaphosa added that the Gupta links with those in power in government entities were only made clear to him during testimonies heard at the Zondo Commission.
Ramaphosa maintained that he had four options before him, which were to either resign; speak out; acquiesce and abet; remain silent, or remain in position and resist.
The president said he chose to remain and resist.
"The final option, which was what I chose, was to remain in my position as deputy president – not to resign, not acquiesce and not to be confrontational – but to work with others in the executive to resist abuses and bring about change where we could, and to sustain the work of social and economic transformation.
"This meant ‘staying in the arena’, with the challenges, limitations and frustrations inherent in doing so, but it was the course of action that had the greatest likelihood of bringing state capture to an end; restoring the institutions of State and defending our democracy," Ramaphosa said in his opening address at the inquiry.
Shockingly, it was revealed at the Commission on Wednesday that records from the ANC's national disciplinary committee showed that the party had allegedly not disciplined any ANC official for corruption from 2014 to 2021.
The commission’s evidence leader, advocate Paul Pretorius, told Ramaphosa that records submitted to the inquiry showed that the ANC had not disciplined any member concerning corruption.
He asked Ramaphosa whether he and the ruling party were concerned about that. Ramaphosa conceded that malfeasance was a major worry for the party.
"Yes, it is a matter of concern. There has been contestation in the party on this one. That the party, for the most part, did not really live up to the value system that was the backdrop to its existence,“ he said.
In defence, Ramaphosa said the party was now on a journey towards renewal in order to correct the mistakes of not dealing with corrupt members in the past.
Ramaphosa also faced tough questions on the ANC's deployment committee, which is said to have made recommendations on the appointment of judges.
Pretorius said that the ANC's deployment committee had recommended the judges who were to fill two vacant positions – one in the Supreme Court of Appeal and another for judge president.
But the ANC leader painstakingly explained that the committee did not appoint any judges, but merely made recommendations.
But Pretorius and DCJ Zondo raised concerns that such recommendations could potentially influence the decision taken by the JSC tasked with recommending the appointment of judges.
The JSC consists of members of Parliament and leaders of the judiciary.
Ramaphosa defended the ANC's ability to make recommendations, saying lobbying and influence were normal acts worldwide. Whether that was positive or negative would depend on the motives.
He used the need to transform the judiciary, to ensure a gender balance, as an example motivating a need for the party to make recommendations.