By Hassan Isilow
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said Thursday his government will intensify its fight against state graft by introducing a new unit to deal with corruption.
“We have agreed with the new National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) that there is an urgent need to establish in the office of the NDPP an investigating directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offenses,” Ramaphosa announced during his State of the Nation address in parliament.
South Africa has been grappling with several high-profile corruption cases involving top government officials, including former President Jacob Zuma and the influential Gupta family.
Zuma was forced to resign last year following allegations that he favored the Gupta family by helping them win massive business contracts. It is also alleged that the Guptas influenced Zuma to hire ministers who would advance the family’s business interests.
A commission of inquiry into state graft headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was then appointed to probe the allegations of corruption, which is widely referred to as “state capture” in South Africa.
State capture is defined as a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests strongly influence a state’s decision-making processes to their own advantage.
“The revelations emerging from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture and other commissions are deeply disturbing, for they reveal a breadth and depth of criminal wrongdoing that challenges the very foundation of our democratic state,” Ramaphosa said.
He said while the commission of inquiry might take time to make its findings and recommendations known, judicial officials should go ahead and prosecute those named for wrongdoing based on
“Where there is a basis to prosecute, prosecutions must follow swiftly, and stolen public funds must be recovered urgently,” he said.
Ramaphosa also assuaged investor confidence by saying that his government, which has been in office for barely a year, has managed to create policy certainty.
Economists used to criticize former President Zuma for lacking policy certainty and consistency by regularly firing finance ministers, leading to market turbulence.
He was also reportedly not tough on dealing with mismanagement and corruption in some state-owned enterprises.
“Last year, a number of stakeholders raised their concerns about policy uncertainty and inconsistency. We have addressed these concerns,” Ramaphosa said.
“We begin this new year encouraged by the progress we have made, working together, in reviving our economy and restoring our country’s democratic institutions.”
The former anti-apartheid activist also said his government has dealt strongly with the dire situation at several state-owned enterprises where mismanagement and corruption had severely undermined their effectiveness.