African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged that the party and its leaders “stand accused of corruption.”
Ramaphosa made the acknowledgement in a brutally honest letter to ANC branches on Sunday titled, “Let this be a turning point in our fight against corruption.”
‘Accused No. 1’
“Today, the ANC and its leaders stand accused of corruption. The ANC may not stand alone in the dock, but it does stand as Accused No. 1. This is the stark reality that we must now confront,” he wrote.
The ANC has had to face widespread reports of alleged corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) in recent weeks. Some contracts have reportedly been awarded to politically affiliated individuals, including relatives and alleged friends of ANC leaders.
Ramaphosa said these reports have sparked “anger and disillusionment” in society, adding that this anger is “understandable and justified.” He said despite progress in strengthening law enforcement agencies since the ANC’s 54th national conference in 2017, corruption still remains one of South Africa’s greatest challenges.
The President nevertheless said corruption has much deeper roots dating back to apartheid. “Apartheid was both morally and materially corrupt. Even as its laws enabled the theft of resources that rightly belonged to the people of South Africa, there were many in the administration, in state companies, in bantustans and in business who flouted even those corrupt laws to enrich themselves,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the ANC, as a movement that mobilised South Africans against apartheid, “sought not merely to change the political system, but to build a new nation on a fundamentally different moral foundation.”
‘We need to take responsibility’
Ramaphosa recalled that the most recent ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) held earlier in August recognised that it had a “clear mandate” from the 2017 national conference to deal with corruption and restore ANC’s integrity.
“It said this is a responsibility it cannot defer, outsource or avoid. Now is the time, the NEC has resolved, to make a break with the past and to act. The time has come for the ANC to be unflinching in restoring the values, ethics and standing of our organisation,” he added.
The ANC cannot call itself “leader of society” if it fails to eradicate corruption from within its own ranks, Ramaphosa said, adding, “We cannot hope to win back people’s trust if we continue to allow cadres who are charged with criminal conduct for corruption to occupy positions of responsibility within government and our movement.
“Those charged are required to insulate the African National Congress from reputational damage arising from their personal challenges by stepping aside while their cases are being heard.”
Ramaphosa outlined a number of measures the ANC must take to address corruption in its ranks:
- Implement without delay the resolutions of our 54th National Conference on dealing with corruption, including that:
- Every cadre accused of, or reported to be involved in, corrupt practices must account to the Integrity Commission immediately or face disciplinary processes.
- People who fail to give an acceptable explanation or to voluntarily step down while they face disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures should be summarily suspended.
- The ANC should publicly disassociate itself from anyone, whether business donor, supporter or member, accused of corruption or reported to be involved in corruption.
- Require ANC leaders to make regular declarations of financial interests.
- Conduct lifestyle audits of all ANC leaders and public representatives.
- Develop a clear policy on ANC leaders and their family members doing business with the state. We must acknowledge that once one accepts a leadership position, a higher standard of behaviour applies.
- Strengthen the Integrity Commission and provide it with clear administrative and legal support. The ANC must develop uniform terms of reference and guidelines for provincial and regional integrity structures.
To read Ramaphosa’s letter in full, click here.