South Africa’s President vows to end corruption amid Magashule scandal

At an Iftar dinner with business leaders and the clergy on Thursday in Cape Town, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to root out corruption. 

Ramaphosa’s remarks come on the heels of the ruling party suspending its secretary-general, Elias Magashule, on corruption charges this week. 

However, a defiant Magashule, who is the first top party official to be temporarily removed under a new strategy aimed at ending a string of corruption scandals, said he was not going anywhere. Instead, he announced that Ramaphosa’s presidency of the African National Congress (ANC) would be suspended.

“Many steps are being taken to rid our country of corruption. And those who are corrupt, who have pursued corrupt ways will continue to fight and fight to the end because their life revolves around corruption. But we will end it and they will go where they belong,” Ramaphosa said.

After being charged with embezzling public funds while premier of the Free State province, Magashule, 61, was granted a 30-day deadline to resign on March 30. 

He disobeyed the deadline and declined to resign voluntarily, resulting in his suspension by the party.

“You are hereby temporarily suspended with effect from 3 May 2021 until the final outcome of your court proceedings,” his deputy Jessie Duarte informed Magashule of his suspension in a letter.

The charges against Magashule stem from public funds set aside in 2014 to vet government-built housing with asbestos roofs when he was the head of the provincial government, which was dubbed a “gangster state” by investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh in a book. 

The dangerous roofs were never removed, and investigators suspect that more than $12 million (10 million euros) was taken from the company. 

Magashule was briefly detained in November and released on bail after being charged with corruption. In August, he is scheduled to appear before a high court. 

After taking over from the scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma in 2018, Ramaphosa promised to tackle corruption.

Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled the country since the end of white minority rule in 1994, has worked hard to improve its reputation, which has been tarnished by years of corruption. 

In recent polls, the historic party has seen a decrease in voter support. In October of this year, the nation will hold local government elections. 

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance faction, John Steenhuisen, said that suspending Magashule was not enough, and that the party would ensure that “he is put behind bars.”

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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