Johannesburg - Just hours before the crucial meeting of the ANC top brass, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa ratcheted up the fight against state capture, calling on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to be swift in bringing those implicated to book.
The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is on a hunt for R50 billion that was looted from the state.
On Thursday, the NPA met lawyers from McKinsey and Trillian, companies that have been served with preservation orders in the state’s attempt to recoup R1.6 billion paid to them illegally via state-owned power utility Eskom.
Ramaphosa said Eskom had been one of the biggest state-owned entities (SOEs) that have been plagued by financial and leadership instability, and corruption allegations linked to the Gupta family.
“We welcome the actions that they’re beginning to take and want them to act with urgency to increase the tempo of the actions that need to be taken. The freezing of assets is an important component of this but we want to see a lot more,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the government had to stop coming out with doubtful messages on addressing what he called the deepening rot in parastatals.
“It is unacceptable, totally unacceptable, that SOEs that are owned by the nation and that were set up to advance the interests of our people on a collective basis have been hijacked and captured by certain interests,” Ramaphosa added.
“It’s good now that the whole thing has come out in the open, and the emails helped.
“Now the NPA and other authorities are looking very closely into this,” he said.
Ramaphosa was addressing the team which he will lead to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland next week.
He said the political uncertainty before the ANC’s elective conference last month, where he emerged as party leader, had come and gone, and now the country would go to Davos with a clear message that South Africa was open for business and that the war against corruption had been waged and begun to bear fruit with the freezing of assets of companies linked to the Gupta family, President Jacob Zuma’s influential friends.
Before he was elected ANC president last month, Ramaphosa committed to leading the hunt for those implicated in state capture. He has spoken repeatedly about the need to up the game on corruption, including at the ANC’s 106th birthday bash in East London last week.
“The message that we have been putting across is now beginning to bear fruit and I think we are going to start seeing action on the reforms of the SOEs and on getting rid of the rot,” Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
“Believe me, that is the message we are taking to Davos, because we have been asked this by rating agencies and by a number of investors offshore - the one thing they have raised over and over again is our SOEs,” he added.
With reports that Eskom was planning to give its controversial generation group executive Matshela Koko a golden handshake, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said there were some on Eskom’s board and in top management oblivious to the financial crisis at the utility.
“I think we have reached a stage where we cannot continue to be gradualist in addressing the problems that Eskom is facing,” said Gigaba.
“Quite frankly, the national fiscus is not going to be able to step in to bail Eskom out should anything horrible happen,” he added.
At the time of publication, it was unclear whether the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) would discuss Zuma’s future, amid the push by Ramaphosa’s supporters.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said Zuma’s fate was not on the party’s agenda.
“We said in East London that there is interaction between president Zuma as well as (ANC) president Ramaphosa and that interaction will be continuing.
“There is no agenda on the table about that. There isn’t anything on the table about the removal,” Magashule said.
By the time he briefed the media, Ramaphosa had not delivered his political input, which would set the tone for meeting and proceed to the official adoption of the agenda.
Magashule said the NEC were discussing the resolutions of the governing party’s national elective conference last month, in preparation for the party’s lekgotla, which would start on Saturday and conclude on Sunday.
The future of the provincial executive committees of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal were also on the table.
Magashule was in a defensive mode when asked about the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, saying it was not a party matter.
When asked about the dispute over who should set the terms of reference for the commission, whose establishment was announced by Zuma on the eve of the first gathering of the party’s new NEC last week, Magashule said the NEC would not involve itself in the dispute.
“We can’t get into that because this is the ANC, the party.
“We can’t decide on the terms of reference, we are not government.
“There is a president and there is government and remember, president Zuma is in government and president Ramaphosa is deputy president, so it’s a matter of government and a matter of the party, the ANC,” Magashule added.