President Cyril Ramaphosa appeared before the Zondo Commission on Wednesday (April 28) in his capacity as president of the ANC.
One would be forgiven for expecting Ramaphosa to appear contrite, ashamed, apologetic, begging the public for forgiveness that under his watch, state capture made favoured comrades filthy rich; comrades who unashamedly publically flaunted their ill-gotten wealth and assets, and depleted the country of billions.
Instead, he looked straight at commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and confidently launched into his long-winded opening statement.
The statement started with the “decisive break with colonialism and apartheid” when the ANC won the democratic elections, and ended with a grand vision of eliminating poverty and building a non-racial democratic society.
Read: Who will save the ANC from itself?
Ramaphosa acknowledged that “some members of the ANC were advertently or inadvertently implicit in corruption”, and that there is corruption “in our own ranks”, but said this does not mean that the ANC is itself corrupt.
He set out what corrupt cadres should do, “immediately step aside”, and they “may be summarily suspended” and face disciplinary action.
And further, “the ANC distances itself from those in its ranks who were complicit in state capture”, and that “the era of state capture is relegated to history”, and “never again”.
The main issues
Evidence leader Paul Pretorius SC said that there are essentially three issues the commission will investigate:
- To understand what happened in the period of review, noting that the commission has three years’ worth of evidence;
- To understand how these things could have happened; what were the events that allowed this to happen; and
- How can these things be prevented from happening again. What needs to be done?
Further insights into the ANC
In Ramaphosa’s “reply” to Pretorius’s outline of the main issues, Ramaphosa offered further insights into the ANC.
Ramaphosa’s views are briefly set out: that the ANC endeavours to lift whole sectors of society, and describes itself as a liberation movement. The ANC was set up to “achieve certain objectives, and these objectives remain current”.
“We may have a democratic state [but] a non-racial SA has not been achieved.”
Ramaphosa would also like to see a non-sexist SA, “and the overarching objective is to have a prosperous country”.
But “the ANC still has to be a political party, and must exercise power in the interests of people of South Africa … We describe ourselves as the parliament of the people”.
He ended his soliloquy with “the ANC is willing to open its heart to the people of South Africa”.
Cadre development and deployment
Pretorius commenced with cadre development and deployment, and stated that “on the one hand there is evidence that the policy goes far beyond recommendation, and in fact, is a policy implemented on the instruction of the deployment committee”.
And “the other view is that the deployment committee goes no further than to make recommendations and abides by the formal selection processes that take place in the public service”.
Ramaphosa referred to ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe’s evidence on cadre employment, saying that he (Mantashe) covered it.
Read: Gwede Mantashe tries to explain cadre deployment
Pretorius questioned him on whether the deployment committee would get involved in appointing officials in judicial and investigative functions – “are cadres encouraged to stand for appointment in the judiciary?”.
Ramaphosa replied “No. Never. No never. It is well managed through the Judicial Service Commission.”
Ramaphosa further remarked: “We now have a new reformed era, people must be fit for purpose. We are serious about correcting what has gone wrong in the past.”
Zondo noted that having the deputy president as chair of the deployment committee must put pressure on the relevant minister.
Ramaphosa confirmed that there is disconnect between what the deployment policy reads and the practice.
He described factionalism as follows: “This arises because some members would have different factions, different interests, and some of the perspectives may be ideological, some may be organisational, and some may be economic, where people have economic interests.”
One does wonder, theoretically of course, whether comrades who are “implicitly involved in corruption” would count as a faction.
Pretorius asked if the deployment policy could be used by some to pursue an economic interest.
Ramaphosa acknowledged that “this does happen, but it behoves on the organisation to recognise this and challenge it … we are involved in our renewal process”.
Is there still a need for a deployment committee?
Pretorius put it to Ramaphosa that a view has been expressed before the commission by a number of witnesses that there is no longer a need for a deployment committee.
Pretorius read from the evidence given by former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan to the commission: “ … however the usefulness of such a deployment committee these days is debatable.
“How can a handful of people possibly have the institutional knowledge to pronounce on suitable candidates for all the senior positions in government and the public sector?”
She added: “… directorships on boards should never be granted to the favoured few for loyalty to a party or to a faction of a party …”
Ramaphosa replied: “In dealing with these types of matters it is better to be circumspect than throw the baby out with the bath water. If there is something that causes an irritation, it does not mean that you chuck everything out.”
Ramaphosa then touched on the “developmental state that we are creating … we need to keep an eye on the mandate we have been given”, that a CEO must have a developmental as well as a commercial orientation, and the gender balance. Ramaphosa expressed his appreciation of achieving such gender balance on boards.
State capture has bankrupted South Africa, but we must celebrate the fact that we have gender balance.
The hearing continues on Thursday.
Luister na Tinus de Jager se onderhoud met Professor HB Klopper, uitvoerende dekaan, navorsing en Institusionele vennootskappe by die Da Vinci Instituut: