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South Africa's President Says ANC Cleaning Up Corruption 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa testifies before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug. 12, 2021.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has acknowledged rampant corruption within his ruling African National Congress party under former President Jacob Zuma. Addressing a judicial inquiry on graft this week, Ramaphosa said a line had been drawn in the sand and said the party is going to be very serious in dealing with corruption.

Better late than never — that’s what President Ramaphosa told a graft inquiry about his party beginning to clean up years of corruption.

The judicial commission is investigating the looting of the state’s coffers under former president Jacob Zuma, in which Zuma’s business associates allegedly won state contracts and undue influence over government.

Ramaphosa was deputy president under Zuma for four years before succeeding him in 2018.

He told the commission the ANC party is changing its ways.

“We are prepared to hang out our linen in the open and now having drawn a line in the sand we are going now to be very serious dealing with corruption,” he said. "You may say why didn’t you do so over a period of so many years but it’s better late than never.”

But after widespread riots last month that were fueled by frustrations over the state’s failures and worsening poverty, political analysts say better late may not be good enough.

Leaza Jerberg is an independent international relations expert in Johannesburg.

“Civil society would like to see my stronger condemnations and actual action. I think that's the biggest frustration is not that we think that Ramaphosa is pro-corruption. I think we all confident that he is anti-corruption, but there needs to be more actual prosecution and action,” she said.

Ramaphosa claims to be in the dark about many corrupt dealings and kickbacks to politicians and their associates during the Zuma administration.

He also said he chose to stay in politics and move up the ranks in order to bring about positive change.

FILE - South Africa's former President Zuma appears at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
FILE - South Africa's former President Zuma appears at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg.

Narnia Bohler-Muller, a professor with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, says he is living up to his word.

“He's done a lot in the sense of fixing institutions, and that's so important when it comes to fighting corruption. So he's made really good appointments, strengthen the SIU,” she said.

The SIU, the Special Investigations Unit, looks into claims by whistleblowers.

However, Jernberg says many South Africans see the long-ruling ANC as synonymous with corruption.

“It's really hard to disentangle these connect these corruption networks within the ANC. The other concern is that obviously, the ANC itself has become completely embedded within the state and the state within the ANC. So there's no clear delineation anymore between party and state,” she said.

Lawyers at the inquiry have tried to determine where the party’s influence over government decisions begins and ends, and how party loyalty contributed to corruption being swept under the rug.

Bohler-Muller says Ramaphosa needs to be clear about his priorities going forward.

“He has to make a choice, really, he has to decide with who's going to be acting in the interests of South Africa and South Africans, or if he's going to continue to protect the bad apples in the ANC," she said.

After holding more than 400 hearings, the inquiry is due to close at the end of September.

Presiding Judge Raymond Zondo will issue his findings and the country is waiting to see if the so-called bad apples will finally be prosecuted.