Ramaphosa vows to fight South Africa corruption

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Cyril Ramaphosa makes the closing address at the 54th National Conference of the ANC in Johannesburg, South Africa December 21, 2017Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Cyril Ramaphosa is one of South Africa's wealthiest politicians

The new leader of South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, has pledged to fight corruption and pursue a policy of "radical economic transformation".

Closing the party's conference, he said tackling unemployment and poverty should also be key party policies.

Mr Ramaphosa was elected on Monday to succeed President Jacob Zuma as party leader.

He is in a strong position to become president at elections in 2019.

"This conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality," he told delegates at the end of the five-day conference.

"We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks."

He said that the party had approved the seizure of land without compensation, but he cautioned against undermining the economy and food production.

A careful tightrope

Analysis by Lebo Diseko, BBC News, Johannesburg

It was a long wait for Cyril Ramaphosa's speech, which had been scheduled for Wednesday morning. When he finally made it at around midnight, he congratulated his party on having emerged from conference "united".

But there are many who point to issues like the alleged disappearance of 68 votes, cast for the powerful position of secretary general, and argue that splits in the party could well deepen.

Mr Ramaphosa's choice of words on the land issue was interesting. They reflect the careful tightrope the ANC is trying to walk: Addressing the concerns of the majority black population, whilst trying to assuage the business community and allay comparisons to its neighbour Zimbabwe.

There was also the expected condemnation of corruption in government and so-called state capture. What was not expected was his swipe at corporate corruption, and thinly veiled reference to the recent Steinhoff scandal.

Again this is indicative of the delicate balance Mr Ramaphosa is trying to achieve. He wants to let investors know he is serious about correcting the issues of the recent past, and convince black voters that he will equally address the mistakes of white-owned businesses.

The ANC has been under pressure to redress disparities which mean white farmers still own much of the best land in South Africa, more than two decades after the end of apartheid.

"This conference has resolved that the expropriation of land without compensation should be among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution," he said.

"It has also been resolved that we ensure we do not undermine the agricultural production or the economy - that is what is important."

Mr Ramaphosa praised his defeated rival for the ANC leadership, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Media caption,

What advice should South Africa's ruling party take on board?

The leadership battle caused fierce political infighting, raising fears that the party might split before the 2019 election.

President Zuma has been embroiled in a series of corruption scandals - he denies any wrongdoing - and support for the ANC has declined in recent elections. However, it still gained more than 50% of the national vote in local polls last year.

Cyril Ramaphosa at a glance:

  • Born in Soweto, Johannesburg, in 1952
  • Detained in 1974 and 1976 for anti-apartheid activities
  • Launched the National Union of Mineworkers in 1982
  • Chairman of the National Reception Committee which prepared for Nelson Mandela's release from prison in 1990
  • Became an MP and chairman of constitutional assembly in 1994
  • Moved full-time into business in 1997, becoming one of South Africa's richest businessmen
  • On the board of mine-owners Lonmin during 2012 Marikana massacre of striking miners
  • Became South Africa's deputy president in 2014
  • Elected ANC leader in 2017

Analysts say Mr Ramaphosa may move to sack Mr Zuma in the coming weeks, however this would need the backing of the party leadership.

In a separate development, the ANC conference passed a resolution to direct the government to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office.

It described the move as a "practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine".

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump caused widespread controversy when he announced the US would recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocate its embassy there from Tel Aviv.

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