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Ramaphosa Should Have Spoken Out on Zuma-Era Graft, South Africa Justice Says

Ramaphosa Should Have Spoken Out on Zuma-Era Graft, South Africa Justice Says

(Bloomberg) — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa should have spoken out to protest rampant corruption during his predecessor’s reign and didn’t do enough to stop the theft of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds, a judicial inquiry found.

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The finding is the second blow in recent weeks to the credibility of the 69-year-old, who came to power in 2018 promising to cleanse his country and the ruling African National Congress of graft after Jacob Zuma’s scandal-ridden tenure. Earlier this month, ex-spy chief Arthur Fraser laid criminal charges against Ramaphosa, saying he had concealed the theft of more than $4 million from his farm. The president has denied breaking the law.

Ramaphosa’s testimony that he didn’t act more decisively to stop the rot because he would have been removed by Zuma and the graft would have continued untrammeled, was dismissed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Ramaphosa has estimated that more than 500 billion rand ($31 billion) was stolen from state during Zuma’s nine-year tenure. The ex-president has denied wrongdoing.

If Ramaphosa had “spoken out firmly against state capture and wrongdoing, and President Zuma fired him, that would have given hope to a lot of other members of cabinet who may have been looking to someone to lead,” Zondo said in his final set of findings, which were released on Wednesday after a probe that’s spanned almost four years. “The option he chose did not prevent state capture from continuing,” he said, using a local term for government-related corruption.

The findings against Ramaphosa and the ANC were a searing critique of the party that’s ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Ramaphosa could have stopped the corruption “but it would require a certain level of ethical commitment which is difficult to presume could have existed within the ANC,” Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst, said. “How things are coming out now makes it difficult for Ramaphosa to even say to people that he wants to enforce the Zondo commission’s findings.”

The chief justice noted that there were media reports of corruption involving members of the Gupta family, who were alleged to have worked with Zuma to defraud the state, since 2010. Two of the three Gupta brothers were arrested in Dubai this month on an international warrant and South Africa is seeking their extradition. They have denied wrongdoing.

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