IOL By Zintle Mahlati – Apr 29, 2021
President Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to whistleblowers who lifted the lid on corruption allegations linked to state capture.
Ramaphosa concluded his testimony at the Zondo commission on Thursday. He will return to speak of his role as the president of the country next month.
Ramaphosa, while giving closing remarks, praised whistle-blowers who put their lives on the line in exposing incidents of corruption.
“Whistle-blowers have not had a great time in our country. Once they blew the whistle, they have been subjected to enormous pressures. Pressures that have affected them personally, professionally, career-wise and also has affected their own households.“
“There have been brave men and women in our country who, because of corruption, blew the whistle. I regret, that in some instances, they have not been treated well,” he said.
He admitted that tighter legislation is needed to ensure whistle-blowers were protected.
Another song of praise from the president went to journalists for playing a “patriotic” role in exposing corruption.
Ramaphosa also acknowledged the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and civil society organisations who had helped shed light on corruption.
He reaffirmed the ANC’s commitment and support for the Zondo commission and said the party has come under scrutiny. He acknowledged that state capture has had a huge impact on the ANC and society as large. It affected public institutions and the effectiveness of the ANC, Ramaphosa said.
Failed ANC Gupta probe
Earlier, Ramaphosa declined to immediately answer questions on when he first became aware of state capture within the state. He said he would need time to flesh out his thoughts on the matter.
Ramaphosa was also probed on the failure of the ANC’s internal investigation into state capture. Eight people had written to the party about the Gupta family and corruption claims. The probe failed because people did not come forward, former ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said.
Of the eight, seven had indicated that they would speak on the state capture claims in a forum outside the party.
Advocate Paul Pretorius, the evidence leader, asked Ramaphosa if this was not a sign of members not trusting the party.
Ramaphosa disagreed, and insisted the members were seeking a formal process outside of the ANC.
“They did not distrust the ANC, they were grateful that their input was solicited.
Knowing the limitations of the ANC, in investigating, they felt a more state-sponsored entity would be better placed and add credibility more publicly,” he said.
ANC and Parliament’s lack of action
Ramaphosa was also probed on whether incidents of state capture that took place had raised concerns.
The evidence leader cited the landing of the Gupta plane at the Waterkloof Air Force base and Fikile Mbalula’s warnings in 2011 about the Guptas.
“It did raise eyebrows,” Ramaphosa said.
The inquiry also heard the president conceding that Parliament dropped the ball in probing the state capture allegations.
“I do agree that Parliament has a role, when it comes to allegations of this note it is the governing party that should activate its role. And if it fails, then Parliament should come in, but they would need more than allegations. Gupta leaks amounted to evidence that could be followed through,” Ramaphosa said.
Evidence leader Alec Freund asked: “For more than five years, Parliament did not investigate and hold inquiries and do what was possible about serious allegations?”
Ramaphosa responded: “I accept and concede that. There was a dropping of the ball at that level.”