The new head of South Africa’s ruling ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, pledged Saturday to “restore the credibility” of the party after a spate of graft scandals involving President Jacob Zuma.
Zuma was replaced as party chief by his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa in December with the new leader facing an uphill task to recover public support for Africa’s oldest liberation movement ahead of the 2019 elections.
“We must restore the integrity and credibility of the ANC,” said the 65-year-old in his first major address to the party at a rally for the African National Congress’s 106th anniversary celebrations.
“The movement has become deeply divided through factionalism, patronage, corruption and competition for resources,” said the former trade unionist who led talks to end white-minority rule in the early 1990s and then became a multi-millionaire businessman before returning to politics.
“We are going to confront corruption,” he said, pledging that “the investigation and prosecution of those responsible (for manipulating the state machinery for their own ends) will be given top priority.”
This week, Zuma — who was also at Saturday’s meeting in East London — announced a probe into top-level corruption after parliament said it would deliberate procedures for impeachment.
Corruption allegations have tarnished Zuma’s image and eroded his support base, with the beleaguered leader facing growing pressure to resign before his presidential term ends in 2019.
Back in 2014, Zuma failed to abide by recommendations made by the anti-corruption watchdog over $15 million (12.5 million euros) of taxpayer-funded refurbishments at his home in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
After the Constitutional Court found against him, he eventually reimbursed the equivalent of around $500,000 for non-security-related work at his homestead, a sum set by the treasury.
In 2016, a damning report questioned Zuma’s dealings with the Guptas, a wealthy family of Indian origin, who were allegedly granted influence over his cabinet appointments.
Last month, Zuma suffer another blow when Ramaphosa, who campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket, was elected ANC president beating the president’s former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.