ANC Must Ensure South Africa Isn't Mafia State, Ramaphosa Says

  • Ramaphosa calls for judicial inquiry into ‘state capture’
  • Deputy president Ramaphosa is candidate to become ANC leader

QuickTake: South Africa's Economic, Political Strife

South Africa Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ruling African National Congress must keep the nation from becoming a “mafia state” and called for a judicial inquiry into allegations that the government has been unduly influenced by private interests.

“The ANC must ensure that South Africa does not become a mafia state because once you reach that state, all the wheels have come off,” Ramaphosa said Sunday in a speech in the platinum-mining hub of Rustenburg.

Cyril Ramaphosa

RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP/Getty Images

A judicial commission, which was recommended last year by the nation’s graft ombudsman, is the only way to put the issue of “state capture” to rest, Ramaphosa said. In a report, the Public Protector said a probe was needed to determine determine if President Jacob Zuma allowed members of the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts. Both Zuma and the Guptas deny the allegations.

“It must be investigated and put to bed before 2019, because 2019 is our destination for the ANC to win elections,” Ramaphosa said. “It is only through this commission that we can ascertain to what extent our state-owned companies have been used improperly to enrich and benefit a few people and their families.”

Ramaphosa, 64, is a front-runner to replace Zuma, 75, as head of the ANC in December and lead the party into general elections in 2019. Zuma has indicated that he favors Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, his ex-wife and the former head of the African Union commission, to succeed him.

Ramaphosa’s speech comes after last week’s release of the findings of a panel established by the country’s main church organization. Testimony to that panel asserted that a powerful elite centered around Zuma has systematically siphoned off state assets, and corruption is so pervasive that it threatens South Africa’s constitutional democracy. “South Africa may just be a few inches from the throes of a mafia state from which there may be no return -- a recipe for a failed state,” Malusi Mpumlwana, secretary-general of the South African Council of Churches, said at the release of the findings.

Ramaphosa also said he met with officials from Moody’s Investors Service on Friday and assured them that the ANC isn’t threatened by a split and that the government will improve the management of state-owned companies.

Last month Ramaphosa criticized Zuma’s decision to fire Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, a move that prompted S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. to lower the nation’s credit rating to junk.

“I told them that the ANC will not split,” he said. “It will not split because the ANC has a responsibility to unite South Africa.”

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