Growing Corruption Within South Africa’s Ruling ANC: Challenges for Democracy and Stability
In 2019 the former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, stood trial on corruption charges related to a 30 billion rand (over 2 billion USD) deal for European military equipment for South African’s army. Zuma was president from 2009 to 2018 as the leader of the African National Congress. The deal was made in the late 1990s, and charges were initially set aside by the National Prosecuting Authority before Zuma first ran for president in 2009. The investigation and subsequent charges were first brought up after reports of unethical partnerships between Zuma’s administration and the Gupta brothers, three wealthy businessmen. The Gupta brothers denied these claims, but the US Treasury has since placed the brothers under wide-ranging sanctions for their “significant corruption network in South African the leveraged overpayments on government contracts, bribery, and other corrupt acts.” This network, the treasury claims, was able to function thanks to the brothers’ generous donations to a political party” and their “relationship with the former South African president Jacob Zuma.” Zuma denies any ties to the corruption network but the arms deal charges along with 16 charges of fraud, money laundering, and racketeering pushed Zuma out of office in 2018.
The current SA president and member of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, promised to crack down on corruption following Zuma’s ousting. This promise included an investigation and later suspension of the ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, on counts of corruption. Magashule’s case first emerged earlier this year and will go to trial in August, along with ten others, including . The charges against all 11 people are related to a 17 million USD government contract related to audit homes with asbestos roofs from Magashule’s time as the premier of South Africa’s Free State Province. Similar to Zuma, Magashule held the premier position from 2009 to 2018. Both leaders claim innocence and are fighting against Ramahosa and the ANC. Zuma has refused to show up in court for his trial, and Magashule has repeatedly claimed he will prove his innocence in court but has refused to step down from his position despite his suspension from the ANC party.
Ramaphosa’s anti-corruption platform propelled him into the ANC leadership position and the South African presidency. However, he has had trouble taking effective action against the problems, especially with the continuing COVID-19 crisis. As of February 2021, the South African Special Investigative Unit reported that improper or corrupt government contracts for healthcare supplies might have resulted in the loss of over 800 million USD during the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ANC has held control of the South African government since the end of apartheid in 1994 when Mandela was elected president. The corruption within Zuma’s administration led to many accusations that the party had betrayed Black South Africans and the party leader cared more about personal gain than improving the lives of their citizens. The removal of Zuma and the suspension of Magashule signals to South Africans that there will be change within the ANC party. These moves are a positive step towards stopping the losses of South African public finances and boosting their economy, which had severally fallen following the COVID-19 outbreak. Ramaphosa’s rise to power is a step away from the old ways of doing things and a step towards helping to improve the lives of Black South Africans and establishing a clear message of progress and accountability for the citizens and government.