Picture: David Ritchie

Pretoria - The social media smear campaign against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa represents an escalation of a dirty war against those working to restore the values, principles, and integrity of the African National Congress and society, and it is likely state agencies and resources are being abused to promote factional political agendas, Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

Ramaphosa was responding to questions put to him by the Sunday Independent newspaper, which have been circulating on social media since Friday. 
 
“It has come to my attention through questions that were sent to me by the editor of a Sunday newspaper that a number of emails from my private email account have been illegally obtained and provided to at least one media outlet," he said in a statement.
 
From the nature and tone of the questions it was clear that the intention of obtaining the emails and then providing them to the media was to discredit his person. He would not comment in public on private matters, Ramaphosa said.
 
“I do feel compelled, however, to respond to deeply disturbing suggestions that I paid money to several young women with whom I was supposedly in relationships. There are 54 young students – both men and women – that my wife and I provide financial assistance to on a monthly basis and have done so for several years."

"It is unfortunate that evidence of these bank transfers have been used to make scandalous allegations against me and, worse, to make public the names of some of the people assisted. We find it disturbing that the privacy of these young women has been violated through the publication of their names and pictures on social media. It shows a callous disregard for the rights of the individual."
 
“This latest episode extends far beyond an attempt at political smear. It represents an escalation of a dirty war against those who are working to restore the values, principles and integrity of the African National Congress and society," Ramaphosa said.
 
“Resembling in many ways the ‘stratkom’ techniques of the apartheid-era, we have seen in recent weeks a number of attempts at disinformation directed at me and people with whom I am associated. These activities need to be seen within a broader campaign that has targeted several political leaders, trade unionists, journalists, and civil society activists."
 
“Nearly all the people that have been targeted in this way have taken a public stand against the capture of our state institutions by outside interests and the looting of public resources. It is evident that there is a well-resourced, co-ordinated covert operation underway to prevent those responsible for wrongdoing from being held to account and for the integrity of our law enforcement agencies and other state institutions to be restored," he said. 
 
“This operation appears to have access to resources within intelligence circles with the capability to intercept communications and hack private emails. We now need to confront the likelihood that state agencies and resources are being abused to promote factional political agendas. We also need to confront the reality that those behind these agendas will go to any length to protect themselves and their interests. We need to ask who these people are. And on whose behalf they act."
 
“As the ANC’s 54th national conference approaches this campaign will intensify. It is imperative that members of the ANC and alliance formations remain vigilant against deliberate efforts to sow confusion and disunity. South Africans from across the political spectrum need to resist all efforts to forestall the social and economic renewal of our country."
 
“We call on journalists in particular to exercise caution when receiving information and be circumspect in the manner in which they handle the information. It is a concern that questions sent to a person by a journalist were circulated publicly before the questions have even been responded to. This type of behaviour can no longer be referred to as journalism," Ramaphosa said.
 
“If the intention of this campaign is to weaken the resolve of those fighting to revitalise the ANC and unite our country, it has failed. I am now even more convinced that our movement, the African National Congress, needs to be restored to its rightful owners, the people of South Africa."
 
“I am even more convinced that those who have facilitated the capture of our state institutions and have benefited from the looting of public resources should be held accountable for their actions. I am even more convinced that the time has come for the membership of the ANC to restore the organisation as a genuine movement of the people." 

“As a leader, as an individual, and as a member of a collective, my resolve to contribute to the achievement of that renewal is undiminished. We will not be diverted from doing what is right for our country and our people,” Ramaphosa said.