02 - 01
By Lisa Vives
A shakeup in the African National Party has boosted hopes that new party officials will make a clean sweep of the backroom dealings that have made millionaires out of a small South African elite and punished the majority with high unemployment and a national credit rating downgraded to “junk status.”
Business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa, newly elected president of the African National Congress, has raised hopes that he will stamp out corruption, expedite job creation, improve the lackluster economy and speed up the transfer of land to black people.
“Corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa declared in his maiden speech after his election. “We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks.”
“We must investigate without fear or favor the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that caused turmoil in the markets and wiped billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans,” he said.
Ramaphosa was echoing the frustration of South African citizens who turned out in the thousands this fall to march in anti-corruption protests in major cities around the country with blame often laid at the feet of the President.
“Things are just going down under President (Jacob) Zuma,” textile worker Florence Titus told Reuters. “He needs to play a president’s role not just be there to fill his pockets and his family’s pockets. He must step down.”
Efforts to recover several billion rands diverted “into the hands of unproductive and corrupt elites” are not, however, waiting for the new administration. Last month, a 151 page application with thousands of attachments was submitted to the North Gauteng High Court suing the President, his son, and 71 others, demanding a criminal investigation and the recovery of billions of dollars within 20 days of the order.
The foundation of Helen Suzman, an anti-apartheid activist who died in 2009, was one of the filers of the suit.
In a related development, South Africa’s top court ruled last week that Parliament failed to hold President Zuma accountable over his use of state funds to upgrade his private home. The court’s ruling could trigger impeachment proceedings.