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S. Africa’s Ramaphosa could have done more to curb Zuma-era corruption, report finds

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The latest damning findings of a four-year investigation into state corruption in South Africa under ex-leader Jacob Zuma, published Wednesday, suggested President Ramaphosa could have acted on some of the allegations against his predecessor.

When he received the report, Ramaphosa, who was then Zuma’s deputy, described the bribery as an “attack on our democracy”.

The report was handed over to Ramaphosa at his offices in Pretoria by the head of the investigative panel and Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo.

The looting and mismanagement of South Africa‘s state-owned enterprises during Zuma’s nine years in office, when Ramaphosa was his deputy, has been called “state capture.”

In all, it took more than 400 days for an investigative panel to collect testimonies from about 300 witnesses, including Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa’s answers to some questions about what he knew about the corrupt activities were “opaque” and “unfortunately leave some important holes,” the report said.

And whether he could have acted to curb the inoculation, “the abundance of evidence before this committee suggests the answer is yes,” it said.

“There was certainly enough credible information in the public domain… to at least prompt him to make inquiries and perhaps take action on some serious allegations.

“As vice president, he certainly had a responsibility to do that.”

Ramaphosa did not immediately comment on the contents of the report, but said it “offers us an opportunity to make a decisive break from the coup era”.

“The state imprisonment was a real attack on our democracy, it violated the rights of every man, woman and child in this country.”

The investigation was prompted by a 2016 report by the then corruption ombudsman.

More than 1430 individuals and institutions, including Zuma, were involved. Zuma has previously denied doing anything.

Ramaphosa now has four months to act on the panel’s recommendations.

The first part of the report was published in January and now the full document spans over 5,600 pages.

The report described Zuma as a “critical player” in the high-level looting of state-owned companies that continued his nine-year tenure, which ended unceremoniously in 2018 when he was forced to resign.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison last year for refusing to testify before investigators.

He was released on parole just two months after his incarceration, but not before his jail sentence last July sparked riots that killed more than 350 people.

‘looting plan’

The panel said that “Zuma fled the committee because he knew there were questions” he would not answer because it provoked his ally and ex-chairman of struggling national airline South African Airlines (SAA) into bringing down the airline.

The investigation revealed how Zuma’s friends, the wealthy Indian-born Gupta brothers, became entangled in the highest levels of government and the ruling African National Congress, including by influencing ministerial appointments under Zuma.

Two of the three Gupta tycoons were arrested in Dubai earlier this month and are to be extradited to South Africa to face charges.

“The logical conclusion is that during this period … the ANC under President Zuma has allowed, supported and enabled corruption and coup d’état,” the report said.

After Zuma was forced to resign over corruption, Ramaphosa took office, declaring that anti-transplant control was a priority of his government.

Ramaphosa estimated in 2019 that corruption had cost South Africa about 500 billion rand ($31.4 million), equivalent at the time to about a tenth of the GDP of Africa’s most industrialized economy.

The publication of the final report comes as Ramaphosa himself is embroiled in a scandal following a raid on his luxury game and cattle ranch two years ago.

A former spy chief Arthur Fraser accused him of corruption, alleging he hid millions of dollars in cash in banks, and bribed the robbers to avoid scrutiny for keeping large sums of cash at home.

The scandal threatens to derail Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as ANC president ahead of the 2024 general election. He says he has been the victim of “dirty tricks” and “harassment” from those opposed to his anti-graft fight .


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