Johannesburg, Feb 9 (PTI) South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to bring an end to the rampant corruption plaguing the country, resulting in unprecedented electricity supply shortages, destruction of a wide range of its infrastructure and poor citizen service delivery.
"We will not stop until every person responsible for corruption is held to account. We will not stop until all stolen money has been recovered. We will not stop until corruption is history," Ramaphosa said in his annual State of the Nation address at the Cape Town City Hall on Thursday evening.
One of the overriding challenges this administration had to deal with when it took office was state capture and corruption, he said.
"We have transformed the lives of millions of South Africans, provided the necessities of life and created opportunities that never existed before, (but) just as we cannot deny the progress South Africans have made over the last 30 years, nor should we diminish the severe challenges that we continue to face," he said.
Perhaps "the greatest damage", he said, was caused during the era of state capture.
"For a decade, individuals at the highest levels of the state conspired with private individuals to take over and repurpose state owned companies, law enforcement agencies and other public institutions. In some cases, these activities were enabled by local and multinational companies," he said.
The real tragedy of state capture was that it diverted attention and resources away from what government should have been doing which is to grow our economy and create jobs, Ramaphosa said.
"Billions of rands that were meant to meet the needs of ordinary South Africans were stolen. Confidence in our country was badly eroded. Public institutions were severely weakened. The effects of state capture continue to be felt across society, from the shortage of freight locomotives to crumbling public services, from the poor performance of our power stations to failed development projects," Ramaphosa said.
In the wake of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, he said there had been progress in bringing those responsible to justice, with more than 200 accused currently being prosecuted and more under investigation.
Among them are the three Gupta brothers – Rajesh, Atul and Ajay – who are accused of siphoning off billions of rands from parastatal institutions, allegedly through their close association with former president Jacob Zuma. The Guptas are currently in self-exile in Dubai, with South Africa following up on extradition plans with the Gulf state to bring them back and face trial.
Ramaphosa said stolen funds were being recovered, but conceded that there was much more work to be done to eradicate corruption completely.
"Our first priority was to put a decisive stop to state capture, to dismantle the criminal networks within the state and to ensure that perpetrators faced justice. We had to do that so that we could restore our institutions and rebuild our economy," Ramaphosa said, highlighting some of the steps taken towards this.
"We set up the Investigating Directorate as a specialised and multidisciplinary unit within the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate corruption and other serious crimes. With the assistance of business, we have set up a digital forensic capability to support the Directorate, which in due course will be expanded to support law enforcement more broadly. A legislation is currently before Parliament to establish the Investigating Directorate as a permanent entity with full investigating powers," he said.
"Based on the recommendations of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, we are determined to introduce further measures to strengthen our anti-corruption agencies, protect whistle-blowers, regulate lobbying and prevent the undue influence of public representatives in procurement," he said.
The president said steps were being taken, including through new legislation, to strengthen South Africa's ability to prevent money laundering and fraud in order to have the country removed from the "grey list" of the Financial Action Task Force, which last year said the country had not done enough to address this.
"We have endured times of great difficulty, when the strength of our constitutional democracy has been severely tested," Ramaphosa said, citing some of these as the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 that brought to an end a decade of strong growth and faster job creation; as well as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown era. PTI FH TIR TIR TIR