East London – African National Congress president Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday promised tough action against those responsible for corruption and state capture, and vowed to work for unity in the ANC and the country as a whole.
Delivering the ANC’s annual January 8 statement at the party’s 106th anniversary celebrations at the Buffalo City Stadium in East London, where President Jacob Zuma was booed by a large section of the crowd as he arrived almost two hours late, Ramaphosa welcomed the appointment of a commission of inquiry into state capture.
Corruption in state-owned enterprises (SoEs) had undermined government’s programmes to address poverty and unemployment, he told thousands of supporters.
Corruption had weakened key institutions, discouraged investment, and contributed to divisions within the ANC and its alliance partners. Anti-corruption efforts would be more effectively co-ordinated and all forms of corruption would be exposed and the guilty parties prosecuted. “This includes corruption, collusion, and other criminal activity in the private sector, which must be fought with equal diligence and determination.”
A top priority was to pursue those responsible for state capture. “We shall confront corruption and state capture in all the forms and manifestations that these scourges assume. This includes the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry into state capture. The investigation and prosecution of those responsible will be given top priority.” The ANC would also hold to account any party member who sought to divide the party in the “year of renewal”.
The ANC's new national leadership had been given a clear and unequivocal mandate to unite the party, the alliance, and the people of South Africa. “The ANC’s 54th national conference, which met in Johannesburg in December 2017, recognised that the movement has become deeply divided through factionalism, patronage, corruption, and competition for resources,” he said.
Structures had been weakened and the confidence of the people in the ANC had been eroded. This, and the development of social distance between elected leaders and the electorate had damaged the bond between the ANC and the masses of the people.
"We will reach out to our people as a whole through the various structures in which they are organised, from sports bodies to chambers of commerce to community-based organisations and faith-based groups. We will reach out to the veterans of the movement to ensure that they play a meaningful role in rebuilding the ANC and restoring its values. In doing this, we will build unity of purpose, ensuring that the ANC is strengthened as a vanguard of the process of social transformation."
The ANC would renew its focus on former president Nelson Mandela’s vision of a non-racial society in which the social and economic barriers that had separated black from white South Africans were torn down, and redouble efforts to build a society in which black poverty and white privilege were consigned to the past, replaced by respect, solidarity, and non-racial equality.
“We shall work to rekindle Madiba’s vision of a democratic society in which all citizens have equal opportunity to determine their own destiny. We shall achieve this not only through strengthening the instruments of representative and participatory democracy; but also by ensuring that people have economic opportunities and the ability to make choices about their own lives."
In 2018, the ANC would work to restore the confidence of the South African people in a shared vision for radical social and economic transformation. "We shall confront, together, the lack of broad-based economic participation and the social marginalisation of millions of poor and landless people. This we shall do, proceeding from the understanding that an equitable society is in the interest of all South Africans, whatever their race, gender or social status. Drawing on the wisdom of Madiba, and led by his example we shall focus all our efforts on improving the lives of all South Africans, especially the poor,” Ramaphosa said.
Turning to Zuma's sudden announcement just before the December ANC conference on free post-school higher education, Ramaphosa said it was critical to expand access to economic opportunities for those South Africans from poor and working class backgrounds whose household income was less than R350 000 a year.
“This will be implemented by providing full bursaries for tuition and study materials to qualifying South African students at public TVET [technical vocational education and training] colleges and universities, and subsidised accommodation or transport capped at specific levels for those qualifying, starting with first time entry students in 2018.”
Returning existing National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS)-funded students in 2018 and in future would have their loans converted to full bursaries. Ramaphosa did not elaborate in detail on the roll-out of free tertiary education nor its implementation.
On the land, issue, Ramaphosa said the ANC remained committed to land expropriation without compensation. “We will do so in a manner that not only meets the constitutional requirement of redress, but also promotes economic development, agricultural production, and food security. At the same time we will pursue the enormous potential of agriculture to promote industrialisation, create employment, and transform our economy.”
This would be done by modernising agricultural production and developing a substantial skills pool in the industry, which would not only improve food security, but also develop agro-processing, the manufacture of agricultural inputs, and increase exports, and also have a profound effect on the sustainability of rural communities,” Ramaphosa said.
Earlier, Zuma was booed when he arrived at the stage to join other senior ANC officials about two hours after the official programme got under way. At the time, the ANC’s alliance partners were already giving their messages of support.
Thousands of ANC supporters booed him as he made his way to the stage as images of him appeared on big screens around the stadium. The booing continued when ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe welcomed him to the event. Other people in the stadium ululated and clapped when Mantashe acknowledged the presence of newly elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
African News Agency/ANA