Senior ANC member Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

The scale of corruption and its implications are being overstated, ANC national executive committee member Nathi Mthethwa says.

Addressing journalists at the ANC’s national general council (NGC) in Midrand, Mthethwa said the ANC-led government had implemented many measures to counter graft.

“You can imagine (if) there was R30 billion stolen or looted – it means we have many billionaires running around.

“What we are referring to, among other things, is fruitless expenditure – which doesn’t necessarily mean there is corruption.

“Sometimes it is maladministration by the state and so forth. That narrative – that there is R30 billion gone to corruption with the ANC government – is not correct.

“There is expenditure which goes wrong in government – under-expenditure and over-expenditure. In some instances, where there are elements of corrupt practices, (these are) dealt with in the government. Let’s not put it in a way which is not correct.”

Independent researchers say they have found R30bn a year, on average, is lost to corruption.

Mthethwa was speaking to the media about his “balance of forces” report, which he presented at the NGC.

He said delegates had expressed “frustration” about the negative light shed on the party by senior party office-bearers who were accused of corruption but remained in their jobs.

“All of us are innocent until proved otherwise. That is precisely the point that has made it difficult for the (ANC) ethics committee to do its job.”

There was a perception that if someone stepped down, they were admitting guilt.

“The sentiment of the conference is that whether or not you are guilty, allow the process to take its course.

“The direction, as I see it, going forward, (is that) one of the two (approaches) has to suffer.”

It seemed there was less support for the approach that emphasised the principle of innocent until proved guilty.

“That was the sentiment yesterday – it may change.”

Mthethwa is Minister of Arts and Culture and a former minister of police.

The ANC’s national general council ends on Sunday.

Sunday Independent and ANA