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Ramaphosa dealt twin blows in anti-graft fight

Faces fightback from foes aligned with predecessor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa suffered two major setbacks on Friday, when he was accused of misleading parliament and his predecessor Jacob Zuma won significant concessions from a corruption inquiry.

Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on cleaning up South African politics since he replaced Zuma as head of state in February 2018 and then won a first full five-year term in May.

Read: Public Protector says Ramaphosa deliberately misled parliament

But he has been constrained by factional battles in the governing African National Congress (ANC), where a section of the party remains loyal to Zuma and has launched a fightback against reforms which threaten their influence.

Zuma has ducked and dived this week at the inquiry, which is testing allegations that he allowed cronies to plunder state resources and influence senior appointments during his nine years in power. He has denied those allegations.

He complained that he was being questioned unfairly, but on Friday he secured a deal whereby he will provide only written statements for now, before returning later to give more public testimony.

Political analysts say if the inquiry, which Zuma set up in his final weeks in office under pressure from rivals including Ramaphosa, fails to link the former president to serious wrongdoing it could dent Ramaphosa’s credibility.

“By being aggressively uncooperative and engaging in legal technicalities, Zuma has undermined the integrity of the inquiry. It is awfully embarrassing for Ramaphosa,” said Ralph Mathekga, an author of books on Zuma and Ramaphosa.

Zuma is a shrewd operator who survived several no-confidence votes before being ousted as president.

As head of intelligence for the outlawed ANC under apartheid he was privy to sensitive information which he has threatened to use against former comrades in the liberation struggle.

After the inquiry adjourned on Friday, he made a rousing speech to several hundred supporters in downtown Johannesburg, saying spies had infiltrated the ANC and that he was ready to expose them.

“I know a lot about spies. That was my job in the ANC. I’ve never played around with that information, but if people want me to uproot them I will,” Zuma said, before leading the crowd in renditions of struggle songs.

Ethics violation

Ramaphosa’s second headache came from an investigation report by an advocate with powers enshrined in the constitution to probe civil servants’ conduct.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa had “deliberately misled” parliament about a R500 000 donation he received for his campaign to become leader of the ANC in 2017.

Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa had violated an executive ethics code and referred the matter to the speaker of parliament. She also instructed the chief prosecutor to investigate whether Ramaphosa’s campaign had laundered money in handling donations.

Ramaphosa’s office said it was unfortunate that Mkhwebane seemed to have not taken into account his response to her preliminary findings, which he described as “deficient both factually and in law”.

His supporters say Mkhwebane isn’t impartial in her investigations and accuse her of acting as a proxy for Zuma’s faction. She has denied that.

Although analysts aren’t predicting Ramaphosa will be removed from office soon, the report provides ammunition to his enemies with which to attack him.

“This report will add to the Zuma faction’s plans to neutralise and remove Ramaphosa, as they are threatened by his anti-corruption campaign,” Darias Jonker, Africa director at Eurasia Group. “The immediate political damage is significant.”

‘Amorphous corruption’

From Zuma’s first day at the corruption inquiry on Monday, his lawyers have tried to prevent him from facing rigorous questioning.

Read: Judge Zondo solves tricky impasse

“This animal called corruption is amorphous, we don’t know who is actually corrupt,” Zuma’s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told the senior judge overseeing the inquiry.

Zuma threatened on Friday to pull out of the inquiry before his demand for a more lenient form of questioning was granted.

State prosecutors are following the inquiry and could open cases if strong evidence of wrongdoing emerges.

On Monday Zuma denied that he had done anything unlawful with his friends the Guptas, three Indian-born businessmen who won lucrative state contracts during his time in power, repeating: “I know nothing.”

The Guptas, who were at the centre of influence-peddling allegations during Zuma’s tenure, have denied they used their relationship with Zuma to profit financially. 

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The lawyer says they don’t know who is actually corrupt.

Its easy. THEY ALL ARE.

Stop the soap opera and spend the money on prosecuting some of them.

The Public Protector’s reports should not be dismissed out of hand. Too many media houses and political commentators are implying she is some how compromised. In my opinion if Pravin Gordhan and President Ramaphosa are clean then they would be better off replying to the accusations rather than attacking the Public Protector. If they take this road they will be no better than Zuma who constantly attacked Thuli Madonsela. I cannot help but wonder why Gavin Watson is walking free with zero charges against him ??? It looks a lot like he is being protected. How is it that Agrizzi was charged after exposing the truth but Watson is left out of it ? The net effect is that it put people off testifying at the State Capture Commission. Only the corrupt benefit by this.

Well summarised! This almost confirms we are witnessing a fall out amongst thieves. Some are simply more brazen than others, but thieves( and liars) nonetheless.

I am not a fan of either Gordhan or Ramaphosa but your observations are naive.

Both replied to the cases against them, the PP simply ignored their versions.

In Gordhan’s case she also ignored the findings of a judicial commission of enquiry and the retractions of the Sunday Times, KPMG and judge Kroon.

She chose to rely on the discredited report of the man who is conveniently representing Jacob Zuma at the state capture enquiry.

Both Gordhan and Ramaphosa are taking het findings om review.

Three of the PP’s reports have been overturned on review because she is either biased or incompetent. Another has been interdicted before it could be released. A number of other cases are pending.

As for Watson, that is a matter for law enforcement.

he makes billions quicker than the Ruperts…seems to be all donations…Mabuza is our next Pres…save us

The difficult part remains explaining the tainted source of funds, the destination of those funds and then lastly the explanations given. It would seem CR May need to blame his son? That part about the fees for consulting will be hardest to shrug off.

I get that he may not at the time have known how tainted the funds were and needed the cash. But the explanations?

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