Tuesday 21 May 2019

ANC 'will purge its deviant tendencies' in graft crackdown

Promise: President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses supporters. Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Promise: President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses supporters. Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Alexander Winning

South Africa's president has vowed to purge his party of "bad and deviant tendencies" as he prepares to appoint a new cabinet following a victory in national elections.

The 57pc share of the vote was the worst-ever election showing for the African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled since the harsh apartheid system of racial discrimination ended 25 years ago. The party won 62pc of the vote in 2014.

Low voter turnout of 65pc in the May 8 election also reflected the frustration of many South Africans after corruption scandals around the ANC that led former president Jacob Zuma to resign last year under party pressure. Turnout was 74pc in 2014.

Current president Cyril Ramaphosa - in his first speech to supporters since the election win - said he would not appoint leaders who worked "to fill their own pockets".

He told thousands of supporters in downtown Johannesburg that "we are going to end corruption whether they like it or not". The revelations by a government commission investigating graft, often aired live on television for fascinated South Africans, "must be things of the past," the president said.

Mr Ramaphosa, however, is believed to be facing a revolt within the party by Zuma allies, one that could surface in the coming weeks as he decides on the make-up of his new government.

Observers have said South Africa's economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, would be further weakened if Mr Ramaphosa is removed by his own party. He narrowly won the party leadership in late 2017, weeks before Mr Zuma was pushed out.

Mr Ramaphosa yesterday urged ANC leaders to not hang out the party's "dirty linen in public" and said the party must be renewed "so that we cleanse it of all the bad and deviant tendencies".

In South Africa, the president and parliament are not elected directly. The number of votes won by each party determines how many representatives are sent to the national 400-seat legislature. The president of the country is the leader of the party that gets the most votes.

The ANC slipped to holding 230 parliament seats, while the main opposition Democratic Alliance now holds 84 and the populist Economic Freedom Fighters have 44. The EFF gained ground in just its second presidential and parliamentary election, winning 10.7pc of the vote, up from 6.3pc five years ago.

Meanwhile, thousands of ANC supporters took to the streets of downtown Johannesburg to celebrate victory despite a lower share of the vote.

"Ramaphosa has done the right thing by targeting corruption. It helped us win the election," said Tlaleng Radebe (45), an ANC member from Soweto township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Another ANC member, Themba Shabalala (39), said he wanted to see Mr Ramaphosa, a union leader turned business tycoon, rid the country of the "scourge of unemployment".

Around 27pc of South Africans do not have jobs.

Mr Radebe and Mr Shabalala were part of a crowd of several thousand wearing the ANC colours of black, green and gold outside the party's headquarters, Luthuli House.

Music blared from speakers and people waved party flags before Mr Ramaphosa and other ANC officials addressed them.

Irish Independent

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