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By Kwazi Dlamini

Delivering his second state of the nation address (SONA) last night, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised a new investigative directorate within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to deal directly with serious corruption and related offences amid the increasingly shocking revelations coming out of the currently sitting Zondo Commission of Inquiry.  “In broad terms, the directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries,” he said.

Ramaphosa said there are many tasks that government wants to achieve, but five tasks need urgent attention – one of which is winning the fight against corruption. There is no choice but to step up the fight against corruption and state capture, he added.

He also promised to establish an ethics, integrity and disciplinary technical assistance unit which will fight impunity and guarantee consequences for breaches of government processes.  The president further revealed the forthcoming introduction of mandatory courses for senior management and supply chain management, which will cover ethics and anti-corruption to help end the plague of irregular and corrupt activities. The government will also strengthen the laws against public servants doing business with the state as this will make the fight against corruption easier.

Download the full SONA 2019.

In his first SONA as president in 2018, Ramaphosa promised to restore confidence in public institutions such as the NPA. He has since appointed the highly regarded Advocate Shamila Batohi as the new NPA head, a move that was applauded by many considering her credentials. “She will lead the revival of the NPA and to strengthen our fight against crime and corruption.”

In yesterday’s speech he said in order for these institutions to easily identify those guilty of corruption they must work together with the government and other law enforcement agencies. 

As he announced in his SONA a year ago that commissions of inquiry should not hinder the work of other law enforcement agencies, a year later he has suggested that such commissions can make recommendations later but other law enforcement agencies should be allowed to commence with their work using the evidence that has already been provided and seemingly the train has left the station – seven people, four of them former Bosasa executives, were charged by the Hawks on Wednesday in connection with the evidence given at the Zondo commission. Five have appeared in court to date.

The president had promised 2018 to be the year when the government will “turn the tide” of corruption in public institutions and we saw the charges against former president Jacob Zuma being reinstated, former NPA boss Shaun Abrahams being replaced and former finance minister Malusi Gigaba being replaced by Nhlanhla Nene who resigned shortly thereafter amid controversy surrounding his alleged meetings with the Gupta family. In a move to save the country’s corruption-ridden state owned enterprises (SOEs) Ramaphosa appointed Pravin Gordhan as the minister responsible for them to “strengthen leadership and restore stability”.

“We resolved to cure our country of the corrosive effects of corruption and to restore the integrity of our institutions,” he added.

In 2018 the president had promised to turn the tide in the embattled energy utility Eskom by ridding it of corruption and appointing an ethical board of directors so the institution can maintain itself, but clearly the plan hasn’t worked as Eskom is still in need of a bail-out from the state.

Ramaphosa said he believes the government’s plan to alleviate poverty, inequality and unemployment would be hard to achieve until they manage to win the fight against corruption, as this will pave the way for radical economic change.

· Image: Flickr/GovernmentZA