President Cyril Ramaphosa testifies at corruption probe into previous South African government

Published : August 13, 2021 13:57 IST

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his ability to fight corruption would have been impaired had he resigned. Photo: Rogan Ward/REUTERS

President Ramaphosa justified remaining a part of ex-President Jacob Zuma's government, saying he tried to fight graft.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared for a second day's testimony on August 12 before the Commision of Inquiry into State Capture. The testimony comes weeks after widespread riots and deadly unrest broke out following former President Jacob Zuma's imprisonment last month.

What did Ramaphosa say?

Ramaphosa, who served deputy president under Zuma, said the country's intelligence agency was weakened by corruption. "We have been through a period of state capture that really debilitated a number of state institutions," Ramaphosa said, using the term in South Africa for corruption of the state. The State Security Agency, he said, "was one of the agencies that was compromised."

On August 11, Ramaphosa told the commission he was largely in the dark about the level of corruption and refrained from addressing it because he thought it would be better to tackle it from within. Ramaphosa said at one point he had considered stepping down.

"While I would have earned praise from many quarters, this action would have significantly impaired my ability to contribute, to bring about an end to state capture," Ramaphosa said.

What is the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture?

The commission is an investigation into allegations of corruption and fraud in the public sector and organs of state during Zuma's time as president from 2009 to 2018. When Zuma announced the establishment of the inquiry in January 2018, he called for there to be cooperation with the commission. "I trust that we will all respect the process and place no impediments to prevent the commission from doing its work," he said at the time.

Many of the allegations relating to corruption during the Zuma presidency involve the Gupta family, three Indian brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh. The businessmen managed to foster close ties with the Zuma family. There have been countless allegations of corrupt relationships between the brothers and senior officials.

The family is accused of influencing the hiring and firing of government ministers, including the country's finance minister. The brothers deny the allegations.

Probe sparks outbreak of violence

Ultimately it was Zuma's failure to appear before the commission that then led to him becoming the country's first democratically elected president to receive a custodial sentence from the Constitutional Court. It was his subsequent imprisonment in July that was the catalyst for an explosion of violence and looting. Over 300 people in South Africa were killed during days of violent clashes.

The country's security agencies appeared slow to respond at first.The security vacuum saw armed citizens effectively take the role of police, who were completely swamped by the level of unrest.

Ramaphosa's government said what happened during those days, was an attempted insurrection. In response to the scale of unrest in two of the country's provinces, it was decided to deploy 25,000 troops to help police pacify the situation.

kb/rs (AP, AFP)