How low is the bar for us to celebrate a president who simply did his job?
This week the second instalment of the Zondo report into state capture was released. More dirty dealings were contextualised and top ANC members implicated. President Cyril Ramaphosa did not hang on to the reports for months like his predecessors would have. The state capture commission’s processes have been mostly smooth and unencumbered, unlike other commissions on a similar scale. (Remember the arms deal commission?)
However, lauding Ramaphosa for not creating an obstacle course for acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and his team is not how we should measure his commitment to rooting out corruption and protecting whistleblowers. Ramaphosa is, of course, one of the witnesses who provided Zondo with vague answers and obfuscated as much as former president Thabo Mbeki did when he was before the Seriti commission.
Ramaphosa has a much bigger challenge than obfuscating the work of the commission. He is the president of South Africa. He is also the president of the African National Congress. And the two are mutually exclusive. But we all know how the ruling party has blurred the lines between state and party.
The state capture reports are clear: the ANC comrades have been looting the state. Others who sit in significant positions within the party, including the top six and the national executive committee, aided and abetted the looting, to say the least. Some of the ANC members who have been named in the state capture reports include Malusi Gigaba, Gwede Mantashe, Jacob Zuma, Lynne Brown and Jeff Radebe.
These are not ordinary card-carrying members of the governing party. They sit in the top meetings to discuss policies that the president is then expected to use to run the country and put forward in parliament.
If Ramaphosa is to be remembered favourably by history for the first real progress against corruption under his leadership, he will have to take decisive action.
He will have to ignore the likes of Mantashe, who said that the Zondo report should not be used to settle scores or purge members. Yes, party members who abetted and actively syphoned state resources should be purged from the party. They should be prosecuted and sentenced behind bars.
In a country with the highest inequality rates globally, a tattered education system, a struggling economy and joblessness higher than anywhere else, any kind of interaction with corruption should be treated as treasonous. It is this corruption that burdens the entire state where we can’t grow or fix the fundamental issues that would allow for more young people to get a job, to get a better education and to build a South Africa in which we all want to live and participate.
If Ramaphosa continues being the chairperson of this country — looking for consensus everywhere — and not the president we need, who will put South Africa first and not the ANC, then, Justice Zondo, you did a good job but accountability is not attainable.