What Ramaphosa will tell Zondo

Apol­ogy for ‘eth­i­cal wrongs’ in cap­ture saga will re­gain ‘trust’


● Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa will be ad­vised to apol­o­gise to the na­tion for the ANC’s fail­ure to act sooner against state cap­ture en­ablers when he wraps up the party’s ev­i­dence be­fore the Zondo com­mis­sion of in­quiry in 2019.

Se­nior of­fi­cials and lead­ers at Luthuli House told the Sun­day Times that Ramaphosa will be ad­vised, “at the tail end of the com­mis­sion”, to of­fer an apol­ogy for not hav­ing “acted stronger in in­stances when we should have” — to save face ahead of the gen­eral elec­tions.

It’s un­clear if Ramaphosa will ac­cept or heed the ad­vice, as some close to him say it’s too early to com­mit to an apol­ogy now while the com­mis­sion still has some way to go.

This comes as there is ac­cep­tance within the ANC that the party has suf­fered rep­u­ta­tional dam­age, with some ap­pear­ing be­fore the com­mis­sion im­pli­cat­ing it in state cap­ture.

In­sid­ers said this strat­egy was dis­cussed in an elec­tion cam­paign meeting where it was de­cided that the ANC should use the Lcom­mis­sion to win lost ground.

The party’s na­tional chair, Gwede Man­tashe, has al­ready ap­peared to ex­plain the meetings the party held with SA’s com­mer­cial banks af­ter they closed Gupta bank ac­counts.

An ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) mem­ber said Ramaphosa would have to “hum­ble him­self be­fore the com­mis­sion” and find ways to “mend the trust deficit” be­tween or­di­nary South Africans and the ANC.

“The ad­vice is to apol­o­gise for not speak­ing out and act­ing sooner. To hum­ble him­self and say as the or­gan­i­sa­tion we are sorry for not act­ing against state cap­ture,” an NEC mem­ber close to Ramaphosa said.

But, he said, Ramaphosa would not apol­o­gise for crimes committed.

“A crime is a crime. Peo­ple must be held ac­count­able and the law must take its course. That’s what he will say to the com­mis­sion. The apol­ogy must be for, if we turned a blind eye to eth­i­cally wrong things, we are sorry,” the NEC mem­ber said.

But head of the ANC pres­i­dency Zizi Kodwa said any talk of an apol­ogy was jump­ing the gun as the party had not taken any le­gal ad­vice about what Ramaphosa should tell deputy chief jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo.

“The ANC will speak for it­self to­wards the end of the com­mis­sion … there are ques­tions we can’t run away from. What did we know? What did we not know? What did we do? And what was not done?”

Kodwa re­it­er­ated that his party was not on trial at the com­mis­sion. He said even though some party lead­ers were im­pli­cated, that did not mean that they had the party’s per­mis­sion to com­mit the crimes.

“The ANC will not take any col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity on be­half of in­di­vid­u­als.”

Kodwa re­vealed that Man­tashe would re­turn to the com­mis­sion early in 2019 to ex­plain the party’s de­ploy­ment pol­icy in re­sponse to ev­i­dence de­liv­ered by for­mer pub­lic en­ter­prises minister Bar­bara Ho­gan.

Should there be more ev­i­dence that im­pli­cates the party, an­other leader will go. Ramaphosa will only go to­wards the end of the hear­ings.

“He [Ramaphosa] can’t make that sub­mis­sion when the com­mis­sion has not done its work,” said Kodwa.

Those in­volved in carv­ing out the party’s elec­tion strat­egy said re­cent meetings dis­cussed how an apol­ogy could help the party re­cover lost sup­port be­fore the elec­tions.

ANC head of elec­tions Fik­ile Mbalula said the party re­alised that state cap­ture caused mis­trust be­tween the masses and the ANC. He said, how­ever, that the es­tab­lish­ment of the com­mis­sion had cre­ated some op­ti­mism that Ramaphosa would deal broadly with cor­rup­tion and state cap­ture.

“Now we got a com­mis­sion that is deal­ing with is­sues aris­ing from state cap­ture. Peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the fact that some­thing is hap­pen­ing,” he said.

He said pub­lic sen­ti­ment to­wards the party has im­proved since the start of the com­mis­sion.

“We are not where it was a year ago, where there was de­nial of state cap­ture,” Mbalula said.

An ANC leader close to Ramaphosa said the pres­i­dent was the only one who could do dam­age con­trol.

“Usu­ally the sec­re­tary-gen­eral would have to ar­tic­u­late the po­si­tion of the party, but in this in­stance both the SG [Ace Ma­gashule] and his deputy [Jessie Duarte] are im­pli­cated in state cap­ture,” the leader said.

A source close to Ramaphosa said the pres­i­dent wants to be pre­pared when he ap­pears be­fore the Zondo com­mis­sion.

The source said the pres­i­dent does not want to present mere hearsay to the com­mis­sion.

“We will have to find a way to use cabi­net min­utes to show that just be­cause he was deputy pres­i­dent he was not com­plicit in these things,” the source said.

Mbalula com­pared state cap­ture to a sore where “you can’t clean a sore with­out go­ing deep into it — just dress­ing the wound won’t help”.

He added: “Over­all our pos­ture is to win back the trust of the peo­ple. The barom­e­ter of the last elec­tion showed there was a trust deficit be­tween us and vot­ers.”

ACE MA­GASHULE: ‘Im­pli­cated’.

FIK­ILE MBALULA: No deny­ing cap­ture.

ZIZI KODWA: No col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity.

GWEDE MAN­TASHE: He’ll be back.

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