ramaphosa state capture inquiry zondo

Photo: Twitter

Sorry Cyril, but your state capture testimony is full of contradictions…

One minute he can’t remember anything, and the next, Ramaphosa claims he is the ‘silent hero’ who fought state capture from the inside.

ramaphosa state capture inquiry zondo

Photo: Twitter

We’d love to sit here and say that Cyril Ramaphosa’s appearance at the State Capture Inquiry has been a victory for accountability and justice in South Africa. But in all good conscience, we just can’t do that. His testimony over the past two days has sought to paint contradictory stories about his response to rampant government corruption.

For you see, this is Schroedinger’s President. He was both aware AND unaware of the corruption around him. He can AND cannot recall vital details about corruption-accused colleagues. Ramaphosa, sensing an opportunity to portray himself as the ‘silent hero’ of the state capture era, has only succeeded in making our political institutions look more terrible than we already thought they were.

Has Ramaphosa been contradicting himself?

Let’s take some quotes from his statement yesterday. Ramaphosa reckons he only learned about state capture and the extent of the issue when the #GuptaLeaks reports were published. So, by 2017 (at the very latest) he was now clued up.

“As it became increasingly clearer – through the so-called Gupta Leaks and other revelations – that a network of individuals was seemingly colluding with senior government officials to occupy key positions and ‘capture’ key institutions, the question that arose was how to respond.”

Silent hero, or convenient amnesiac?

Fair enough, pal. But how do you then reconcile that with the fact Malusi Gigaba was a well-known stooge of the Guptas by this point, but remained in Cabinet – even surviving a reshuffle – when you assumed the presidency? Ramaphosa assumed power in February 2018, and Gigaba remained a minister until November 2018.

In the end, it was a sex scandal that got Gigabyte, and not his multiple links to the Indian billionaires.

Ramaphosa’s state capture testimony divides opinion

Ramaphosa spoke a lot about ‘resisting’ state capture on Wednesday. He made it sound like he could work against the whole heinous plot from the inside. Fearful of making too much noise and losing his position of authority, Cyril maintains that he provided ‘enough opposition’ to help quell the spread of government corruption.

“Had I and like-minded individuals resigned from the Executive, we would have had no ability to resist the excesses that were taking place – and there was a clear danger that without resistance, there would have been even fewer impediments to the expansion of state capture.”

“My ability and the ability of others to resist and ultimately to bring about changes that would end state capture relied to a large measure on the political balance of forces within the Executive, within the governing party, and within society more broadly.”

State Capture Inquiry brings us ‘two Cyrils’

But that’s just not right, is it? Passivity in this situation doesn’t achieve much, if anything.

At the time he was ‘quietly resisting’ state capture from the inside, Ramaphosa found himself tied up with corruption kingpins Bosasa. Unless he was undercover as someone who receives money from fraudsters, this one just doesn’t fly.

Even after assuming the presidency, he was taking part in ANC committee meetings that sought to appoint cadres in various positions, and they even made recommendations for certain judges to be elected. If Cyril’s path really is one of peaceful protest, he’s going to have to find his voice fairly soon. Or failing that, a working memory…

A win for accountability? We’re not so sure…

One minute he is fighting corruption, the next he knows nothing about it.

And herein lies the problem. Ramaphosa would like us to believe in the duality of his claims: He was a source of opposition in the shadows, and if there’s anything that looks bad on him, there’s nothing worth remembering. His timelines are muddled, like a presidential Doctor Who – and the whole Gigaba saga has already chipped away at some of his claims.

The ANC leader can be commended for attending the Commission, but what’s the alternative? Well, 15 months in Estcourt Prison by the looks of things. Ramaphosa has done enough to fulfill his legal obligations, but questions still remain.