South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said he backs the ruling party’s investigation of claims that private groups are interfering in the government, in his first public comments on allegations that friends of President Jacob Zuma have tried to influence ministerial appointments.
Ramaphosa, 63, said the decision by the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee on March 20 to investigate claims that the Gupta family, who’re in business with Zuma’s son, has meddled in administration policy, showed the party was committed to ending the controversy.
“One thing we can say for certain is that the ANC is not for sale,” Ramaphosa said in a copy of a speech Wednesday at a party meeting of professionals and academics in Johannesburg. “The ANC will not be captured.”
The allegations over the Guptas have fueled disgruntlement with Zuma that peaked in December when he replaced his respected finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, with a little-known lawmaker, sparking a sell off of the rand and the nation’s bonds. Four days later, Zuma reappointed Pravin Gordhan to the post which he had held from 2009 to 2014, after coming under pressure from ANC and business leaders.
“That family has been close to many people in the country,” Zuma, 73, said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corp. that was released Thursday. “I don’t think that has ever caused a problem. I don’t think you can just take a decision because there are allegations.”
The controversy has weakened Gordhan’s bid to turnaround a weakening economy that’s set to grow less than 1 percent this year and is threatened by a credit-rating downgrade. Standard & Poor’s has a negative outlook on its BBB- rating, one level above junk. Moody’s Investors Service rates South Africa’s debt one level higher.
“South Africa is politically stable; our institutions are resilient and robust,” Ramaphosa said. “The ANC is committed to addressing this issue in a systematic basis, through the appropriate structures, and based on credible evidence.”
Ramaphosa’s failure to speak out previously on the issue shows that following the NEC meeting’s decision to probe the Gupta family, “it is safe to say so now,” Aubrey Matshiqi, an analyst at the Johannesburg-based research group, the Helen Suzman Foundation, said by phone on Thursday.
“He now has been emboldened, I suppose, by what happened at the NEC,” he said. “So effectively on this one he is leading from behind.”
Two ANC members, including Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, have said that the Guptas offered them ministerial posts, allegations they deny. South Africans commonly call private groups influencing government policy “state capture.”
The Gupta family said Thursday there’s nothing “untoward” in any of connections between their cos. and more than 12 people working for South African state companies, as reported by Johannesburg-based Mail & Guardian newspaper.
“As for concerns about ‘state capture,’ as we have stated countless times before, our fully audited financials show that only 1 percent of our business is with government,” the family said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The nation’s main banking group said Wednesday that interference in the government by private groups is threatening the nation’s constitutional democracy.
The country’s graft ombudsman plans to investigate whether Zuma breached the Executive Members Ethics Act through his relationship with the Gupta family.
A special South African police unit known as the Hawks said it’s deciding whether to investigate corruption charges against members the Gupta family and Zuma’s son, Duduzane, following a formal request by the opposition Democratic Alliance party.
“You can’t divorce what needs to be done to investigate ‘state capture’ from the state of the ANC itself,” Matshiqi said. “Because state capture is partly a function of the state of the ANC.”