South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said yesterday that his African National Congress (ANC) party remains committed to anti-graft rules under which members charged with corruption or other serious offences must quit as he faces challenges to his leadership from within the movement.
Members of an ANC faction loyal to former president Jacob Zuma – who is being investigated for corruption but denies wrongdoing – wanted the rule scrapped, arguing that it was being used to persecute political opponents with trumped up charges.
“The overwhelming view of the policy conference is for the retention of the step-aside provisions to enhance the integrity of the movement and its leadership,” Ramaphosa told delegates, wrapping up three days of talks to map out the party’s direction.
The conference noted strong concerns about the perceived lack of consistency in the policy’s implementation, he said.
These “must receive urgent attention so that the application of the guidelines is impartial, is fair and is consistent”, he added.
The talks were a prelude to the ANC national elective conference in December, when the party is to hold internal polls to pick a candidate for the next presidential election.
Ramaphosa is expected to seek a second five-year term, but could face a challenge from a faction of the party that is loyal to Zuma.
Ramaphosa vowed to clean up the party upon taking charge in 2017, but is himself facing a police investigation of his finances after thieves stole $4mn from his farm in June, and his opponents are hoping to use this to unseat him.
If he is charged with any irregularity – such as failing to declare the money to tax authorities or violating exchange controls – then he himself might be forced to step aside.
Ramaphosa says the money was proceeds from sales of game animals on the farm, and has welcomed the investigation.
A state corruption inquiry report published earlier this year implicated more than 200 ANC members, including some senior officials.
Under the step-aside rule, which was agreed in 2017, ANC members charged with serious crimes have 30 days to leave their post or face suspension.
The most prominent figure to face the axe was former secretary-general Ace Magashule, a Zuma ally, who was suspended last year over corruption allegations.
In other remarks yesterday, Ramaphosa reiterated that the ANC wanted to nationalise South Africa’s central bank, which is currently privately managed.
“Delegates urged the ANC government to find mechanisms to restructure the ownership of the bank in a manner and at a pace that takes account of the likely cost implications for the fiscus,” he said.
He also said the party has agreed to take urgent measures to accelerate growth, create employment and alleviate poverty, adding it was also committed to achieving gender equality within its ranks.
The party of Nelson Mandela, which has ruled South Africa for nearly three decades since the end of apartheid, has been struggling to regain its former glory.
Opening the conference on Friday, Ramaphosa scolded the ANC for losing public trust, saying the party was weaker than at any time since it ended white minority rule in 1994.
Support the ANC dipped below 50% for the first time in local polls last November.
Critics charge that the government lacks a national plan to tackle poverty, inequality and 34.5% unemployment worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, or even provide basic services such as electricity and water.
Ramaphosa addressing African National Congress members at the National Recreation Centre (Nasrec) in Johannesburg yesterday.