South Africa

PRESIDENTIAL QUESTION TIME

Daily Maverick readers score Ramaphosa 2/10 on fighting corruption — the Presidency responds

Illustrative image | Sources: Flickr / Jurgens van der Spuy / Flowcomm | Adobe Stock | Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We asked you to rate President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts at fighting corruption — you gave him a decidedly poor rating.  The President's spokesperson has provided a response to address your questions. 

After collating responses from polled Daily Maverick readers on the subject of government corruption, Presidency spokesman Tyrone Seale answered questions based on readers’ feedback.

Question: There is a perception that corruption is getting worse, not better despite the President declaring war on it. Why do you think this is so?

Answer:  Public awareness and discussion of [corruption] is a healthy attribute of a robust democracy.

Part of this awareness is driven by government’s open and often self-critical articulation of the challenge.  

Awareness can also be shaped by our public reporting, through Parliament and to the media, on successful prosecutions, disciplinary processes and other actions.  

Regrettably, perceptions can also be shaped by the lengths to which criminal and unethical elements are prepared to go to victimise or even eliminate whistle-blowers and witnesses.

Q: The Covid corruption and then the Digital Vibes revelation of misspending of R155-million of a public health communication budget lends to the growing view that corruption networks and syndicates have not been disrupted. What is the Presidency’s view?

 A: The fight against corruption will not be won overnight. It requires a concerted effort to strengthen public institutions, reduce the opportunities for corruption, act decisively against acts of wrongdoing and build a culture of ethical public service.

The Covid-related corruption demonstrates much more work needs to be done. Government acted swiftly and decisively. Here’s some evidence: the President’s proclamation of SIU investigations, the freezing of assets suspected to be proceeds of crime, disciplinary action against implicated public officials and the potential prosecution of people in business and in the public sector show there is no place to hide.

Q: There is a strong perception that President Ramaphosa has good intentions but that the intention is not followed by action. What is the Presidency’s view given that not a single person has been jailed for the corruption the President so often speaks out on? 

A: Various people in the public and private sectors have been convicted of corruption in recent years. Several high-profile cases are now in court, while others are at different stages of investigation and preparation for prosecution.

The SIU, National Prosecuting Authority and other arms of the criminal justice system have been reinforced and resourced to ensure outcomes are secured faster so that justice can be done — both to assure the nation that we are winning the fight against corruption and to deter criminals from implementing their nefarious schemes.

Q: Our audience scored President Ramaphosa an average 2/10 for his anti-graft work. How would you rate the Presidency’s efforts?

A: The Presidency values external assessments and constructive feedback. 

While the President cannot, and should not, be responsible for the prosecution and conviction of people involved in corruption, he has taken several decisive steps to end state capture, fight corruption and rebuild damaged public institutions. Some of these actions are worth repeating:

– Boards and executive management in several captured SOEs, like Eskom, Denel and Transnet, have been replaced with competent, credible people. 

The new leadership of these companies have halted corrupt practices, initiated disciplinary and criminal actions against people alleged to be involved in corruption, and have recovered large sums of money irregularly spent.

– A Commission of Inquiry into Sars was instituted, which found severe governance and operational failures. The recommendations of the commission have contributed significantly to the turnaround of the institution and the resumption of effective revenue collection.

– New leadership was appointed at the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), which has restored credibility and stability and led to tangible action against alleged corruption.

– A new National Director of Public Prosecutions was appointed on the recommendations of a panel established to consider candidates, the first time a President has formally sought the advice of legal experts and made the process public. This has had a great effect on the functioning and credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

– The SIU Special Tribunal was appointed to expedite civil claims against corrupt individuals and the recovery of stolen funds.

– The NPA Investigating Directorate was established to focus on prosecution of state capture and other significant corruption cases.

– A Health Sector Anti-Corruption Forum was launched as a multi-stakeholder body to identify, investigate and prosecute corruption in the health sector.

– The Zondo Commission regulations were amended to enable sharing of information and resources with NPA.

– In response to allegations of corruption in Covid-related procurement, a Fusion Centre was established to strengthen the collective efforts among nine law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute Covid-related corruption. This has led to several prosecutions and the recovery of substantial amounts of public money.

– President Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 funds across all spheres of the state.

– By August 2021, the SIU had referred cases worth R1.4-billion to the Special Tribunal in order to have contracts set aside and recover lost funds; referred 148 individuals and entities to the National Prosecuting Authority for possible criminal action; referred 127 government officials for disciplinary action and three political office bearers for executive action.

 – Government published details of all Covid procurement contracts online, which was a first in South Africa, with the intention that it should set a precedent for transparency in public procurement. DM

(Photo: thewc.co.za/Wikipedia)
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All Comments 22

  • We should get that system one of the Scandinavian countries built : all tenders and contracts and invoices are open-sourced.

    Imagine losing tenderers can see this. Imagine our public can have a look for the more ridiculous contracts.

    Any company dealing with government or SOE must publish their full FICA ownership. So all the way to eventual warm bodies seeing through share registers and trusts and trust beneficiaries. Any company MUST already have this to have a bank account.

    Visibility is the best disinfectant of corruption.

  • I agree, though that is in theory what already should happen locally. In practice, we see a lot of dodgy deals done unofficially, then the parties dodge as much as they can while trying to clear an audit. And when they fail to, there isn’t action against them.

    As per usual, the SA state has many good plans but is awful at following through and holding its employees (including the politicians) accountable.

  • I just want to note that I cannot recall a Presidency in this country being so open to respond to public questions and attempt to defend its record. For all the shortfalls of the office right now, it is a HUGE improvement over the previous administrations that never felt the need to engage with the people. Whether it was Mbeki’s aloofness or Zuma’s Father Knows Best attitude, at least Ramaphosa acts in a way that suits the role of a public servant and not a preordained Big Man.

  • Reply to James:
    Trouble with CR is that, as much as he might want to eradicate the rotten apples, he will run a considerable risk of chopping the ANC in 2 halves. That means the times of ANC having any prospect of governing will be over for good and CR will be the one blamed.

    • I have been heartened by Pres. Ramaphosa’s attempts to bring ethics back. What scares me is the lack of support for his actions. How many honest parliamentarians exist in the ANC? A handful is not enough.

  • Reply to Martin: I 100% agree. That’s one reason why I posted my view. Already we see scum like Ace and Zuma trying to paint the ANC’s downfall as Ramaphosa’s doing. They will not accept that Ramaphosa is by far a superior leader and servant of the people than they could ever be.

    So we must remind ourselves of that fact. Because every time we attack Ramaphosa, justified or not, we are also reinforcing the narcissistic nation-killing hubris of the WMC faction. The current administration is flawed and hobbled, but it’s a remarkable improvement over those who have led us before.

  • And yet CR’s defense of cadre deployment at the Zondo commission makes me greatly doubt his commitment to undoing corruption and graft. Cadre deployment is at the heart of many of the problems of state capture, and his and the ANC’s obsession with state control is a major contributing factor to the downfall of all we see around us. I would be deeply disappointed, but I know better than to ever expect anyone in the ANC to choose country over party!

  • The presidency’s replies might all sound good on paper but there are certain unanswered questions which loom very large- the disastrous July riots for which no ANC bigwig has been arrested despite promises to do just that; the Arthur Fraser and Jacob Zuma parole affair;the honorable title given by the President to the saboteur of the Health Department , and Mr Ramaphosa’s retention for political purposes, of obviously wanting cabinet ministers. The list goes on and on- so in many cases politics trumps the welfare of the citizens.

  • Again I say – we are seeing a lot of things under Cyril we would never have seen under Zuma.

    The problems under Zuma would be worse and they would be silent.

    First picture Cyril inheriting a team likely having a criminal majority and a remainder unskilled to perform the task at hand.

    Then picture inheriting an environment with no law enforcement and corrupt civil servants, where both public and private institutions are all busy having a feeding frenzy in the public coffers.

    Now pause for just a moment and imagine yourself in his position.

    Can you hand on heart say that you would have turned South Africa into a functioning economy already?

    I very much doubt it.

  • 2 is a generous score. Nobody has gone to jail, yet trillions have been stolen. Nobody’s even been prosecuted yet.

    The message is, crime pays

  • To give credence to the claims that “something is/has been done”, an objective test is needed. May I suggest the following…?

    DM prepare a simple spreadsheet to be sent to the presidency for completion, with columns as follows:

    A : List Sequence No.
    B : Details of alleged offence
    C : Dept/SOE/Organ of State
    D : Date first reported/charge laid
    E : Reported by
    F : Current status
    G : Next action needed
    G(i) : Description
    G(ii) : Responsible body
    G(iii): Responsible person
    G(iv): Expected date of completion

    I am certain as to A-E, DM already has such a list. F-G to be completed by the Presidency.

    To keep it simple for the Presidency (no offense), Column F(Current Status) can be pre-populated with a simple drop down “pick-list” with default being “Not a clue…” following which choice the rest can be left blank…

    “To manage is to measure”… they say….

    Let’s start

  • Lots of evidence from the Zondo commission is with the NPA as the regulations were changed to enable information sharing, so if not why not. Adriaan de Ruyter has learnt to be open and disclose all the technical problems and say load shedding is here until new capacity is brought on line in another 4 to 5 years ( govt programmes have been known to be many years late). Bert below, has given a fact chart for filling in, names can be left off just the charge of what the corruption is. A simple statement by Cyril saying “Various people in the public and private sectors have been convicted of corruption in recent years. Several high-profile cases are now in court, while others are at different stages of investigation and preparation for prosecution.” I believe this statement is bull and give us this list of all these high profile cases and against the overall chart this will be a drop in the ocean of corruption.

  • Keep a close eye on who gets the contracts for the new “green” power plants that are coming. Cyril and his boet in law are going to do quite well there. Don’t expect open tenders.

  • How do we separate the party for supposed civil servant, especially in an era of patronage.

    An SA version for justice of the satire re climate change would be the more honest conversation

  • Well thePresidency’s reply is all very well, but it does not answer the questions of WHY no high profile people, besides Ace Magashule, have been hauled before the courts- and WHY , after five months, the same can be said about the devastating July unrest which left the country on its knees., and definitely contributed to the loss in GDP. Surely , as the government said shortly after the ‘ insurrection’, ‘we know who they are‘, why are they still free, and possibly plotting another treasonous act? It is beyond rational understanding- no wonder Cronje left the SIU- she probably could not stand the frustration anymore caused among other things, by a probable lack of funding, compromised players and lack of political will.