President Cyril Ramaphosa has lamented the recent developments in the country, blaming a “confluent of forces” which he says have led the country to where it is.
In concluding his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday evening, Ramaphosa said South Africa suffered “several damaging blows” in recent times.
“We face steep and daunting challenges. Indeed, we are engaged in a battle for the soul of this country. But there can be no doubt that we will win,” the president said.
He urged South Africans to rally together in the fight against corruption.
“We have faced many crises in our past, and we have overcome them. We have been confronted with difficult choices, and we have made them. In trying times, we have shown courage and resilience.”
Turning to the work of the state capture commission of inquiry, Ramaphosa said his responsibility was to ensure that the Zondo-led commission’s report was properly considered and acted upon.
Whistleblowers, who were at the forefront of exposing the corruption at state-owned enterprises and other government institutions needed to be protected, he remarked.
Some were murdered while others fled the country.
Ramaphosa said: “We are doing a detailed review of all applicable legislation and a comparative study of other jurisdictions to strengthen whistle-blower protection.
“The relevant law enforcement agencies are taking the necessary steps to address the immediate concern about the safety of whistleblowers.”
Following the resignation of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigating Directorate (ID) head Hermione Cronje, a new replacement would be appointed soon to carry out investigations recommended by the state capture commission.
The president said the NPA was “now poised” to deliver on its mandate, with a dedicated team established to pursue the cases.
Furthermore, a new framework would be developed to manage the private sector cooperation with prosecuting authorities, to be managed through National Treasury. Plans were afoot to also create special court rolls for state capture and corruption cases.
“We have gratefully acknowledged the offer of support from the private sector to assist in providing skills which we lack in government to enable investigation and prosecution of crime. While we have taken decisive steps to end the era of state capture, we know that the fight against corruption is far from over.
“Even as the country was suffering the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic, companies and individuals were conspiring with public officials to defraud the government of billions of rands in Covid-related contracts. As soon as evidence emerged of this corruption we acted.”
Ramaphosa said that he would present a plan of action in response to the Zondo commission’s recommendations by the end of June.
Expert panel report
Regarding the scathing expert panel report on the July riots, Ramaphosa said Cabinet acknowledged and accepted that it should take responsibility for the destructive riots that erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last year.
He said government would soon be announcing leadership changes in security agencies that were captured by the politically connected and marred by alleged corruption and nepotism.
“The expert panel said that if the violence has exposed anything it was the poverty and inequality that is the root cause of the desperation of the people of South Africa.
“We will, as recommended by the panel, develop and drive a national response plan to address the weaknesses that the panel has identified,” he said.
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