In widely awaited testimony to a bribery investigation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday that the ruling party “could and should” have done more to prevent corruption under his predecessor Jacob Zuma.
Ramaphosa, Zuma’s former deputy, was testifying as the new head of the African National Congress (ANC) in a rare instance of a sitting president testifying about alleged corruption by members of his own party.
The “state capture” investigation is looking into allegations of corruption during Zuma’s nine years in office, including allegations that Zuma allowed businessmen close to him, including brothers Atul, Ajay, and Rajesh Gupta, to control policy and gain lucrative government contracts.
Zuma and the Guptas have always denied the allegations leveled against them.
Ramaphosa told the inquiry that while it took the party some time to recognize high-level wrongdoing at that time, he did not want to “make excuses or justify the indefensible.” In his opening remarks, he didn’t mention Zuma by name.
“We all acknowledge that the organisation could and should have done more to prevent the abuse of power and the misappropriation of resources that defined the era of state capture,” he said.
From 2012 to 2018, Ramaphosa served as Zuma’s successor as ANC chief and deputy president.
After defeating Zuma’s ex-wife in a tight race for the ANC leadership in December 2017, his allies in the party orchestrated Zuma’s removal, enabling him to take over as president in February 2018, just before Zuma’s second five-year term was set to expire.
Zuma testified at the inquiry for a short period in 2019, but he ignored a warrant and court order to testify early this year.
As a result, inquiry’s lawyers are requesting that he (Zuma) be imprisoned.