While he may face a backlash of resistance from the Jacob Zuma faction of the ANC for taking concrete action against corrupt figures in the party, President Cyril Ramaphosa “has no choice but to bite the bullet”.
This is the view of professor Susan Booysen, research director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, in the wake of five wealthy foreign countries who are mounting pressure on Ramaphosa to take tangible action against perpetrators of state capture, corruption and other serious crimes.
According to Sunday newspaper reports, governments of the US, UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland have – through their missions in Pretoria – sent a memorandum to the Presidency, appealing to Ramaphosa to act on corruption or risk putting his ambitious investment programme in jeopardy.
The five countries, which account for 75% of foreign direct investment to South Africa, see widespread corruption – currently under scrutiny by the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – as an obstacle.
“What you see is a convergence of domestic politics and international interests when it comes to investment,” said Booysen.
“The memo from these countries has been pitched to the highest office in South Africa and serious steps are now being awaited from President Ramaphosa. It clearly shows a need for action.”
Ramaphosa, who placed party unity as a priority after the closely fought election against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the 54th national elective conference at Nasrec, faced “a predicament”.
Ramaphosa’s win by a whisker of 2 440 votes against Dlamini-Zuma, who received 2 261 votes from delegates, showed the magnitude of factional divisions that continue to haunt the ANC after Zuma’s reign as president.
“Ramaphosa finds himself deeply restrained by what he has seen as a dire need to restore peace and unity within the ANC,” Booysen said. “He now faces pressure to take steps against corrupt individuals within the party, something which is going to be difficult.
“But this is a predicament which is not going to go away, as he finds himself between the devil and the deep blue sea.”
She said the bulk of individuals fingered at the Zondo commission belonged to the Zuma camp. “Forces are now welling up for Ramaphosa to bite the bullet.
“The memo from these countries to him is quite unprecedented and goes one step further than the usual quiet one-on-one diplomacy – a direct appeal. Economic growth, job creation hinge on foreign direct investment, which isn’t possible in an environment of widespread corruption within government.
“It is imperative for his credibility to come up with concrete steps during Thursday’s State of the Nation Address.”