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A SHAMEFUL PRESIDENTIAL PERFORMANCE THAT FOREVER STAINS CYRIL RAMAPHOSA’S INTEGRITY

Martin Luther King Jr once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s August 11-12 testimony to the Zondo Commission on State Capture was little short of farcical. The very confession he made delegitimises our President on grounds of basic competence: “Were we complicit? The answer is no. Could we be said to be negligent? It could well be, but complicit we were not.”

Whether negligent or purposeful, his complicity with Zuma-era state capture – so he could “stay in the ring” by not whistle-blowing through even the worst incidents, such as Eskom’s looting – indicates Ramaphosa’s assimilation into what can now be considered RamaZupta rule.

Today, not even his loyal supporters in big business can defend a man so utterly compromised. His regular giggling during testimony was accompanied by opaque phraseology meant to deflect instead of grapple with the truth:

  • “Chairperson, I don’t know if you want me to answer this? It belongs to a chapter with the title ‘The Anomalies of Our Times’. That’s what one can say.”
  • “we could not immediately link the dots”.
  • “It happened as many other wrong things, inexplicable things. Our task now as

    we move forward is to deal with all the things that went wrong.”

  • “the level of alertness was just not there”
  • “the ANC has embarked on a process of renewal”
  • “it is a proposition, not unreasonable, and it is part of the investigation under way”

    These platitudes were preceded by a number of denials, as collected by News24:

  • He was not consulted about the removal of Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister;
  • He was not consulted about the appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister;
  • He did not know of Zuma’s intentions to deploy Nene to the BRICS bank;
  • He did not know more about the alleged targeting of Gordhan by law

    enforcement agencies;

  • He played no role in the appointment of National Director of Public Prosecution Shaun Abrahams;
  • He did not have knowledge of internal decisions at SAA;
  • He did not know of the machinations taking place in SOEs, as “information

    was only shared if and when something had gone wrong and sometimes through the work of investigative journalists or whistleblowers and not through [his] position or my work in Cabinet”;

  • He did not have personal knowledge of the reasons for the delays or failures of the Anti-Corruption Task Team and National Anti-Corruption Forum, besides “personal and subjective assumptions on the very environment of state capture that was unfolding then”;
  • He was not aware of attempts to move the budgetary process from National Treasury to the Presidency, besides what he read in the press; and
  • He was not involved in returning the Financial Intelligence Amendment Bill to Parliament.

This level of willful ignorance – or strategic amnesia as one analyst calls it – defines the era when he was serving as Deputy President of the ANC (2012-17) and of the country (2014-18). The country is left stunned and despondent, not knowing whether the wily strategist couldn’t, after all, ‘connect the dots’ – or whether he is just a shameless liar. Either way, his time has come and gone..

The workers of South Africa are furious about Ramaphosa’s testimony. We would not be so angry if we saw a renewal! But from paying delegates bribes at ANC conferences to prioritising his own factional intra-ANC warfare by making further sleazy deals, and last week when given an opportunity to reshuffle cabinet, to renewing mandates for corrupt politicians; including retaining Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo; all together these represent continuity from RamaZupta times to today.

To have leading ANC figures from the 2007-18 period retaining enormous power in 2021 – in Cabinet and the ANC’s National Working Committee – is sickening. Ramaphosa’s lack of will to counter corruption is evident, for instance, in not calling

for an investigation into allegations levelled against Minister Blade Nzimande – his trusted Lieutenant – by his suspended Director General, Gwebinkundla Qonde.

The SAFTU General Secretary and a handful of others have offered countless apologies when it comes to participating in Jacob Zuma’s rise to power in 2007 at the ANC’s Polokwane conference. It is time for the Ramathusiasts among us to make the same confession about the man they financed and cheered on in 2017 at the Nasrec conference.

Ramaphosa also revealed that ANC deployment committee is a secret-society group that is hiding whatever minutes or records of its meetings were taken. Moreover, that committee simply ignored facts relating to the corruption or capacity of its cadres. Ramaphosa claims this is a “system failure,” instead of admitting his complicity in the role the likes of Molefe played.

Ramaphosa described very briefly his own roles when running Eskom’s War Room, the State-Owned Enterprise restructuring committee, various anti-corruption initiatives and the cadre-deployment committee through which numerous Gupta-aligned agents made their merry way to the top rungs of the state. These are all important when it comes to Molefe’s allegations – about conflicts of interest at Eskom – that he made to the Zondo Commission in January. They can be summed up as follows:

  1. Glencore sold shares to Ramaphosa and in 2012 made him local board chairperson of one of its main local assets, Optimum, allegedly so he would use his political connections as former African National Congress Secretary General to its benefit – and indeed later that year, Ramaphosa became ANC Deputy President.
  2. Glencore’sOptimumcoalmineowedEskomR2billioninpenaltiesatthetime, but the parastatal did not get this money back, with Molefe implying that this was because Glencore had friends in high places, politically.
  3. GlencorewantedtorenegotiateitscoalsalespricesfromR150pertontoR530 per ton as a result of the commodity price super-cycle and the crashing value of the South African rand, which was to cost Eskom R8 billion more.
  4. But after becoming the country’s Deputy President in 2014, Ramaphosa soon came to chair the government’s Eskom War Room, designed to halt the load- shedding crisis – but apparently still had not sold his Shanduka mining interests.
  5. From this utterly ineffectual War Room, Ramaphosa allegedly forced Eskom’s executives to provide weekly reports, which were operationally meaningless but which provided essential commercial information to Ramaphosa, who was conflicted by his ongoing 9.4% shareholding in Optimum.

We at SAFTU are terribly concerned that these allegations were not properly addressed, because the catastrophic mismanagement of Eskom reflected profound conflicts of interest that date back more than a decade, to when Hitachi bribed the ANC’s financial wing, Chancellor House.

Here was Ramaphosa’s long-delayed rebuttal:

in December 2012, I initiated a review of my business interests to avoid potential conflicts. As part of this process, on 6 June 2013, I resigned as a director of Optimum Holdings, and on 22 May 2014, I disposed of my shareholding in Optimum Holdings ahead of my appointment as Deputy President of the Republic. I had no further involvement or interest in Optimum after that point… First, my acquisition of shares in Optimum Holdings was a straightforward commercial transaction, done in accordance with regulations of the JSE. Second, as non-executive chairperson of Optimum Holdings, I was not involved in operational matters of subsidiary companies, including contractual matters between, for instance, Eskom and Optimum Mine. Third, by the time President Zuma assigned certain Eskom-related matters to me in December 2014, I had disposed of my shareholding in Optimum Holdings and had no other business interests in mining or energy. Fourth, as is evident from the documents provided to the Commission with my statement, the Eskom technical war room was not involved in Eskom management or operational issues. I had no interest in, nor any opportunity to, influence Eskom’s decision- making process in matters pertaining to Optimum.

This is very confusing because it is inconceivable that the chair and large-scale shareholder in Optimum would have no involvement in “contractual matters between, for instance, Eskom and Optimum Mine” – given that the mine was one of Eskom’s main coal suppliers, and that the price of that coal was the single most critical factor in the Glencore-Shanduka purchase.

In addition, in late 2015, Eskom’s board approved a R1.8 billion pre-purchase agreement so that Glencore would benefit instead of the Guptas. Moreover, Ramaphosa chaired Shanduka until May 2015 and it was only in 2016 that Ramaphosa’s sale of his Shanduka ownership stake (30% of the firm) to Pembani was completed.

Ramaphosa’s role in mining ownership was most controversial in alliance with another multinational corporation possessing a record as terrible as Glencore’s: Lonmin. On 15 August 2012 – when he was one of the most powerful ANC leaders outside government (and just weeks away from becoming ANC Deputy President), Ramapohsa emailed to the then Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa (who today remains

in Ramaphosa’s cabinet as an ineffectual minister of culture) to insist on tough action against wildcat strikers. One email he wrote that day to Lonmin colleagues made his intentions clear: “The terrible events that have unfolded cannot be described as a labour dispute. They are plainly dastardly criminal and must be characterised as such … there needs to be concomitant action to address this situation.”

Thanks to his conflicts of interest and manipulative power, within 24 hours the infamous Marikana Massacre of 34 mineworkers was carried out. There have still been no prosecutions, and Ramaphosa’s commitment to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to restore peace in the conflict-riddled platinum mine and surrounding communities was broken. His subsequent apology for the revealing wording he used in the emails was too little, too late.

We also remain concerned that the kind of state capture that has bedeviled South Africa from the colonial era – in which multinational corporations loot the country with the connivance of local elites such as Cecil Rhodes, Harry Oppenheimer and Cyril Ramaphosa – continues and is apparently beyond the scope of the Zondo Commission. Yet Ramaphosa and Shanduka have been fingered in the Paradise Papers, which are leaked legal documents concerning offshore tax havens. Ramaphosa’s roles at MTN and Lonmin, notorious for prolific Illicit Financial Flows during the 2000s, have been investigated by Amabhungane and to some degree by the Farlam Commission, but a full accounting and reparations are needed.

Even the South African Treasury’s Financial Intelligence Centre admitted in 2019 that between 3-7% of GDP is lost annually through Illicit Financial Flows, a massive amount that the Zondo Commission still must ask tough questions about, to Ramaphosa and his ilk.

For these reasons, we are still awaiting a full accounting of what the ongoing RamaZupta era has done to impoverish our beloved country. It surely is much worse than the R57 billion that the Guptas are said to have cost us through state capture.

We make our own conclusions about the urgent need to change government – and now many more in society understand that this dud of a President cannot articulate clearly why he should not be considered a complicit figure in state capture and what, now, appears to be a genuine strategy of well-orchestrated economic sabotage

History proves that President Ramaphosa took the opposite stance of what Martin Luther King Jr defined as a “true neighbour”. In order to save his position and the prestige, power and advantages that comes with it, President Ramaphosa failed to stand boldly against the rot in government because it would have cost him his position.

The genuinely good neighbours like Prof Thuli Madonsela stood against Zuma and the persecution they got from exposing corruption of Zuma’s network of patronage. Dr Makhosi Khoza, Mavuso Msimang and countless others in provinces under the leadership of the “premier league” were witch-hunted and driven either out of the party’s leading structures, and even out of government. The youths that dared challenge this ilk, were marginalised even from getting bursaries, with some driven out of their positions in government. The hollowing out of the ANC Youth League was presided over by President Ramaphosa. For all of this, he should hang his head in shame.

Ramaphosa’s testimony at the Zondo commission reveals that he only barks when he is in a moment of comfort and convenience. The lack of prosecutions confirm he has no bite.

revealed on his member of cabinet, Deputy Minister David Mahlobo and Correctional

But as his inaction against allegations of corruption shows, even in moments of

comfort he still is not acting. Instead of acting on damning allegations of corruption in

Service National Commissioner, Mr Arthur Fraser. Further, he cannot lie that he hates

conflict of interest, when he appointed the late Jabu Mabuza as Chairperson of Eskom

Board knowing very well that the mr Mabuza was involved in the Eskom Coal business.

Like the corrupt lot in the ANC looking after one another at the expense of the people,

President Ramaphosa is no different. He is looking after his ilk