South Africa’s deputy president on Wednesday denounced government corruption in what was seen as a rebuke to President Jacob Zuma, who has faced calls for his resignation because of scandals and graft concerns.
“We now know, without any shred of uncertainty, that billions of rands of public resources have been diverted into the pockets of a few,” Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said, according to local media organization News24. There are just over 13 South African rands to the U.S. dollar.
Corruption has damaged South Africa’s economy, which recently entered recession for the first time in eight years, said Ramaphosa, a likely front-runner to replace Zuma. While the president’s term continues until elections in 2019, there are calls from within the ruling African National Congress party for him to quit earlier and allow the ANC to shore up support before the vote.
The deputy president also said a judicial inquiry should be established to investigate alleged wrongdoing and law enforcement agencies must target those responsible for stealing state funds.
Ramaphosa spoke at a meeting of the South African Communist Party, a former backer of Zuma that barred him from addressing its conference.
Last month, Zuma acknowledged corruption and “negative tendencies” in the ruling party, but he sharply criticized opposition groups and former supporters who want him to quit. He has said he believes he is doing a good job despite high unemployment and other challenges.
Critics partly link the economic problems to the political uncertainty surrounding Zuma, who fired Pravin Gordhan, the widely respected finance minister, in a Cabinet reshuffle in March. Two agencies, Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, responded by lowering South Africa’s credit rating to below investment grade, or junk status.
Zuma’s ties to the Gupta family, immigrant businessmen accused of trying to manipulate government leaders and state companies for financial gain, also have stirred public anger.
Ramaphosa alluded to the Guptas, who deny any wrongdoing.
“There is not a day that passes that we do not gain greater insight into a network of illicit relationships, contracts, deals and appointments designed to benefit just one family and their associates,” the deputy president said.
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