The ANC national executive committee (NEC) has reiterated that members who are accused of wrongdoing must appear before the party’s Integrity Commission and voluntarily step down if they give unsatisfactory explanations, if they’re under disciplinary, investigative or prosecutorial procedures – or if they face suspension.
“It is only if we stand united against corruption that we can restore the integrity of our movement,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday evening while reading the party’s annual January 8 statement in a virtual address.
Party factions have been at loggerheads over last year’s NEC’s decision to call on leaders to step aside if they face criminal charges or are required to appear before the Integrity Commission.
In December, the body recommended secretary general Ace Magashule step aside after he was charged with corruption but its recommendations are not binding and he said he would only do so if instructed by the NEC, which did not discuss Magashule in its first meeting of 2021 this week.
“The NEC will soon finalise guidelines on the implementation of these resolutions. It is only if we stand united against corruption that we can restore the integrity of our movement,” said Ramaphosa.
“Unity cannot be used to shield those involved in wrongdoing from being held accountable,” he added.
The January 8 statement outlines the party’s priorities for the year and the president listed its goals for 2021: defeating the coronavirus, placing the economy on a path to recovery, pursuing party renewal, and building a better Africa and world.
“While important progress has been made in the renewal and rebuilding of the ANC since the 54th national conference, there is still much to be done. The organisation has been weakened by corruption, resistance to renewal and controversies involving ANC leaders. These problems have widened the social distance between the ANC and the people of our country,” said Ramaphosa.
Looking towards the local government elections, due to take place later in 2021, Ramaphosa said the ANC must take real steps to address problems with service delivery, poverty and inequality, which have been highlighted and entrenched during the coronavirus pandemic and not “be paralysed by the complacency of incumbency”.
“In this the 27th year of democracy the ANC cannot campaign on a platform that simply recounts the glories of the past. Our people now want to hear what the ANC is going to do concretely to improve their lives. They want to see us in action, serving their interests and no other interests.”
He continued: “As we begin our campaigning for this year’s elections, we want to make it very clear: we will not tolerate members of the ANC who are involved in crooked practices like vote-buying, branch list manipulation to secure positions, or extending patronage to get votes. We will not stand for any member of the ANC bringing our organisation into disrepute.”
He called on party members to acknowledge persistent problems such as a lack of service delivery including housing, electricity, water and infrastructure in many parts of the country, and commit to deploying capable cadres, accounting to communities and managing public resources ethically.
“It is the ANC that must heed the cries of our people for a decent quality of life and must rid government structures of corruption, cronyism as well as patronage,” he said.
After years of little action, prosecutors and law enforcement agencies made a slew of high-profile arrests last year and Ramaphosa said the state was making progress in restoring its credibility by acting against individuals implicated in crime and corruption.
“We are going to intensify our efforts to end State Capture in all its forms. Those responsible will be held accountable and every effort made to ensure money stolen from the government or public bodies is recovered,” said the president.
The party’s stance on corruption will likely be a key point of division ahead of its national general council, due to take place in the next few months. Ramaphosa also said the party must ensure the ANC Youth League holds its long-awaited conference in early 2021.
Allegations of corruption and the economic crisis, exacerbated by Covid-19, could harm the party at the polls in the local government elections.
“We are now in the phase of rebuilding and our focus is on aggressively implementing the economic reconstruction and recovery plan that was announced last year. We’re undertaking large-scale public investment in key sectors such as energy, water and sanitation, roads and bridges, human settlements, health and education digital infrastructure and public transport,” he said.
Ramaphosa added that the reconstruction of the economy must focus on fundamental inequality and exclusion that continue to define society.
“To bring about this change we need a radical programme of action that is restorative, that rebuilds and that is transformative.” DM