’President Cyril Ramaphosa treated with kid gloves at state capture probe’
Johannesburg - The Zondo commission has been criticised for treating President Cyril Ramaphosa with "kid gloves" during his first appearance at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa was speaking at the Zondo commission on behalf of the ANC, where he faced questions on the ANC's cadre deployment strategy.
However, while most expected Ramaphosa to face tough and straight-forward questions about his knowledge of state capture and his intentions to deal with it, political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said he was left disappointed with the Commission.
Commenting on Ramaphosa's appearance on Wednesday, Mngomezulu said evidence-leader advocate Paul Pretorius and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo missed the opportunity to ask Ramaphosa questions about former President Jacob Zuma and his role in state capture.
"Ramaphosa was deputising for Jacob Zuma at that time, and he can answer many questions relating to that time. The whole exercise on Wednesday was a total waste of time. Ramaphosa was given a blank cheque to take his time and read his opening statement, which is not how the other witnesses were treated," Mngomezulu said.
In his opening statement, Ramaphosa told the commission that although the phenomena of state capture is now widely known, the issue of whether it was real took time to be accepted and processed by the governing party.
Ramaphosa said the earliest instance when the party got wind of the state capture phenomena was in 2011, during an ANC NEC meeting. This is where Fikile Mbalula brought to light that he was told by the Guptas that he would be appointed as a minister.
The president said, at that time, the issue of whether state capture existed and what it should be termed, was widely contested within the ANC and in broader society.
Ramaphosa added that as other allegations involving the Gupta family surfaced about their involvement in the appointment of government officials, the discussion around state capture dominated ANC NEC meetings.
"The issue of state capture was hugely contested in the ANC, and what should be done contributed to divisions in ANC structures, including the NEC, the government and Parliament, as well as other areas of society," he said.He said the corruption issue plagued the party, resulting in divisions over vote-buying and gatekeeping, and even in open conflict between factions of the party. And concerns about corruption grew ahead of the party's 54 ANC conference in December 2017.
Ramaphosa has cited that conference as a "watershed", where the organisation diagnosed its issues on corruption and members being the drivers of corruption.
In an attempt to address the question of what the ANC did about it, Ramaphosa cited efforts made by opposition parties in Parliament to push for investigations into state capture. Other areas he cited as action included ANC members being subjected to disciplinary committees for corruption allegations and possible suspension of implicated members, and that if members were found guilty of corruption in court, then they would be required to leave their positions.
Ramaphosa also addressed the issue of the controversial step-aside resolution, which seeks to suspend ANC members who are facing corruption charges. Ramaphosa said this resolution now has "broad" support in the organisation
“The ANC is in a process of renewal,” Ramaphosa told the commission.
He also conceded that the ANC cadre deployment strategy has been the victim of opportunism and factionalism and admitted that the ANC acted too late on state capture.
Cadre deployment has been criticised for the quality of individuals deployed to certain government positions who may lack the needed qualifications, skills and experience to serve.
Ramaphosa said it only became apparent that certain appointments were made for ulterior purposes "some time" after it had already happened.
He further admitted that the ANC's Deployment Committee was not made aware of some appointments.