South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed zero tolerance on corruption Sunday, as firebrand opposition leader Julius Malema urged police to ‘shoot randomly’ at a parliament he said was full of thugs and criminals.
Corruption was the major theme at the last rallies of both the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the opposition Economic Free Fighters (EFF) in Johannesburg ahead of crucial elections on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa vowed those in government found guilty of graft would be punished, striving to persuade disillusioned voters to support the party at the polls and mitigate damage to the ANC's reputation after a decade of scandals.
‘We admit that we have made mistakes,’ he told a Johannesburg stadium packed with tens of thousands of supporters wearing the ANC's black, green and yellow.
‘Those found guilty of corruption ... will not be able to occupy positions of responsibility in the ANC,’ he said.
At a stadium in Soweto, which was a sea of EFF red, Malema went much further.
He urged police ‘who are looking for criminals’ to go to parliament instead of shooting citizens. ‘Parliament is full of thugs and criminals, go shoot them randomly, don't select!’ he said.
The ANC - the liberation movement that brought about the end of apartheid - has been badly damaged over the past decade by corruption scandals under Ramaphosa's predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was forced to resign last year under pressure from his party over allegations of what has become known as ‘state capture.’ While the ANC is likely to win again at the polls - 25 years after it dominated the first democratic elections - it has seen its mandate reduced in local elections with votes going to the EFF or the Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition.
‘We are now entering a period of accountability, we are now entering an era of consequence and punishment,’ Ramaphosa told his rally, promising the police and judiciary would be further strengthened and their independence assured.
‘Patronage and corruption have eroded the people's trust and confidence in our movement,’ he said, assuring South Africans that he was ‘working hard to restore the ANC to an organisation worthy of ... Nelson Mandela.’ Malema - a former ANC youth league leader - also invoked the liberation hero and first democratic president, saying ‘Mandela has handed over the beacon to a younger generation, and that younger generation is in the EFF.’ Land, a controversial issue in South Africa, was also a topic at both rallies. The ANC has promised land expropriation without compensation to address historical inequalities but has stressed it will be done in a legal manner.
The EFF, however, has a more radical approach.
‘You either share the land or go to the next flight’ out of South Africa, Malema told white farmers - who still own the majority of private land - at his event.
The Democratic Alliance held its final rally on Saturday.
Ramaphosa ‘is no saviour ... he is part of the problem,’ said leader Mmusi Maimane. ‘Give change a chance,’ he begged voters.