President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule’s accusations against him and his attempt to suspend him from the party had “no real substance”.
Ramaphosa said in an interview with France24 on the sidelines of French President Emmanuel Macron’s summit on African economies in Paris that Magashule was “a person who himself is facing criminal charges who will seek to find ways to defend himself”.
Interviewer Marc Perelman asked Ramaphosa about the fact that Magashule was challenging his suspension in court and accusing Ramaphosa of suspending him to pave the way for his re-election at the end of next year.
Ramaphosa told Perelman that “there’s no real substance to any of those things” and “when you are president, you are attacked by anybody”.
He was also asked about former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption case, which was again postponed this week, News24 reported.
Charges were first laid against Zuma 16 years ago.
“I don’t think he’s escaping justice,” Ramaphosa said.
He said: “If he was escaping justice he would have run away somewhere, but he’s not. He is obviously trying to exercise his rights as a person who is accused.”
Perelman put it to Ramaphosa that Zuma had described this as a witch-hunt, but Ramaphosa denied this was true.
“He would want to say that, but it isn’t,” Ramaphosa said.
“He knows very well that our justice system is a fair justice system and our democracy is a robust democracy that enables all these things to happen, and when one is found not guilty, it basically means that you’re not found guilty. So there would be a fair trial, there would be a fair process, that not only former president Zuma has to go through, but anyone who is found to be needing to go through a process like this.”
Ramaphosa refused to be drawn into responding to a question on whether Zuma’s reasons for refusing to appear in front of the State Capture Inquiry were valid.
He said the matter was before the courts and it was for the courts to decide on this.
Zuma had argued that the fact that the commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, had a child with the sister of one of Zuma’s wives years before Zuma married her, meant that he would be partial.
Ramaphosa said: “The party that [Zuma] belongs to has pledged its support to the commission.”
He said the ANC had called for this commission and said that “everybody who is called to go before the commission should go and testify to the commission”.
Ramaphosa was also asked whether South Africa would go into a lockdown again in anticipation of a third wave of Covid-19 infections – but he said a possible lockdown would only be decided “depending on the severity of the third wave”.
Ramaphosa also had praise for Macron’s initiatives towards Africa.
He had “illustrated his support for Africa” through this summit and other outreach efforts in recent years, Ramaphosa said, including speaking out in world forums like the G7 and the G20, as well as convening the summit which focused on the recovery of African economies in a post-Covid-19 world.
“That in itself demonstrates that you have got a leader in President Macron who is prepared to be innovative, to think out of the box to come up with solutions and to mobilise help and support for Africa knowing very well what colonialism did to Africa,” Ramaphosa said.
He also said Macron would be welcomed to South Africa during his state visit, currently being planned for the end of May.
Ramaphosa told the summit in Paris on Tuesday that African economies had been hard hit by Covid-19 and “credit rating agencies need to play their role without acting as a deterrent to countries who seek to take advantage of credible and transparent credit relief measures”.
He also asked for an equitable distribution of vaccines.
During his two-day visit, Ramaphosa held a series of bilateral talks, including African Union Chairperson and Democratic Republic of Congo President Félix Tshisekedi, President João Lourenço of Angola, President Alassane Ouattara of the Ivory Coast, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique, President Macky Sall of Senegal; President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, and President Faure Gnassingbé of the Republic of Togo.
Compiled by Carien du Plessis