Corruption, state capture.. Are they still linked to the South African presidential chair?

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
7 Min Read

When you do a spontaneous search on Google and type in the keyword South Africa, one of the main results that come up, apart from the power cuts that occur very often and have been a blow to the economy, is a scandal, and corruption.

South Africa will have presidential and parliamentary elections in 2024. The current South African president has promised to stamp out corruption, but he himself is facing waves of accusations for his involvement in a money laundering operation, prompting the opposition to call for his resignation.

Corruption the Jacob Zuma way: what the latest Zondo report revealed

Corruption is not a recent phenomenon in South Africa. The case of former South African president Jacob Zuma has been much talked about, although he is currently on parole for medical reasons, after being sentenced to 15 months in prison for refusing to testify before the commission of inquiry.

Indeed, after four years of investigation into the state corruption case involving the former president and other businessmen, an inquiry presided over by Judge Raymond Zondo involving more than 300 witnesses and examining hundreds of incriminating documents has resulted in more than 1500 people being implicated.

Surprisingly, the result, a 5,000-page report, revealed that Cyril Ramaphosa could have acted against corruption by his predecessor as vice-president, based on hard evidence.

The report added that Ramaphosa’s responses to what he knew about corrupt activities were ‘flawed’ and ‘opaque’.

Cyril Ramaphosa, despite his accusation of passivity, did not react to the contents of the report but merely made a statement at the official handover of the report in Pretoria, using the term ‘state capture’ and describing it as a real attack on democracy and a violation of human and women’s rights in the country. He even estimated the amounts embezzled at the equivalent of 30 billion euros.

The Gupta brothers…Jacob Zuma’s protected

The report by Judge Zondo also revealed that Zuma was the ‘puppet’ of the Gupta brothers, a trio of Indian businessmen who emptied the state coffers. The commission’s findings, which could be forwarded to the prosecutor’s office, will allow the case to proceed to the judicial stage. A hundred other people, including former ministers, have been prosecuted in this context.

The wealthy family took advantage of its long friendship with the former president and was accused of several charges: infiltration into the top of the state, influence on the decisions of ministers, and pressure to pass public contracts.

As a result, the family had a large portfolio of companies.

Indeed, in Judge Zondo’s report, it was emphasized that the former president favored the Gupta family to the detriment of the interests of the South African people. The period of his presidency was marked by the systematic process known as ‘state sequestration’ of putting close allies in key positions in government departments and state-owned enterprises by getting rid of key people.

Atul and Rajesh Gupta were arrested last June on an Interpol international arrest warrant.

Ramaphosa confirmed state corruption during his time as deputy president

As part of the investigation into the state corruption of Jacob Zuma, who was forced to step down in 2018 after a series of scandals, the current South African president acknowledged on 11 August that he was corrupt when he was deputy president, adding that he could not resign because he chose to resist and put an end to the phenomenon.

Cyril Ramaphosa is at the center of a corruption case

This news adds to the lack of trust South Africans have in public institutions and the police system, which is known to be corrupt. Now, a request for the family’s extradition is underway to bring them before the South African courts.

This case of the Zuma brothers is perhaps a ray of sunshine for the current president Cyril Ramaphosa, after the storm of corruption accusations against him. A complaint was filed last June by the former head of South African intelligence, Arthur Fraser, accusing him of concealing from the police a burglary at one of his properties, alleging that large sums of money had been stolen, even though he had not reported anything to the police or the tax authorities. Indeed, bundles of $580,000 were hidden under the cushions of a sofa in “a little-used guest room”, the report revealed, proving his alleged involvement in a corruption case.

Ramaphosa still denies it

Ramaphosa defended himself in parliament, again claiming that a large sum of money was stolen from him, justifying that the source of the money was the sale of animals from his farm and that he was paid in cash.

The findings of Zondo’s report see things differently and prove the opposite. According to the report, the alleged buffaloes sold to a businessman are still on his property, so there are doubts as to whether the foreign currency found in his home came from this deal.

The African National Congress (ANC), chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa, has rejected the impeachment procedure recommended by the report’s findings, especially as the party enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament.

Despite all these accusations, Cyril Ramaphosa recently appeared at the ANC’s 111th-anniversary celebration and promised to strengthen the fight against corruption in South Africa, which is hampering the country’s development.

Is this a serious promise as part of his mandate to bring about change as president of the country or is it just a slogan to hide the shortcomings caused by the country’s poor governance in order to win the 2024 elections?

Jihane Rmili

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