South Africa’s president Thursday conceded that parliament and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party failed to act quickly on allegations that a wealthy Indian family had undue influence over the government.
Cyril Ramaphosa appeared for a second day in his capacity as ANC head before a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of undue influence, corruption, and fraud in the public sector, including organs of the state.
Leaked emails from the Indian Gupta family “amounted to evidence that could be followed through,” Ramaphosa agreed with Advocate Alec Freund, the evidence leader at the commission.
“I do agree that parliament has a role when it comes to allegations of this note; it is the governing party that should activate its role. And if it fails, then parliament should come in,” he said.
The Guptas are said to have been involved in “state capture,” a form of corruption where businesses tend to influence politicians to take decisions to favor their business interests.
Nearly six years ago, hard drives containing thousands of emails from the wealthy Gupta family were leaked to the local media.
These showed how the family corresponded with government officials on how to benefit from government businesses.
Then-President Jacob Zuma was accused of giving lucrative state contracts to the Guptas, who were considered close to him.
Zuma resigned in 2018 amid pressure from his own ruling party ANC over claims of corruption and other offenses.
The inquiry commission was established shortly before he stepped down and is probing allegations of wrongdoings during his tenure.
It is alleged that the Guptas influenced Zuma to appoint or fire ministers who did not advance their interests.
Ramaphosa, who served as the deputy president and leader of government business in parliament at the time, under Zuma said the ANC took a decision at a party conference in 2012 that parliament should investigate allegations of state capture.
He said they should have taken seriously allegations made by their colleagues that the Gupta family had told them they would either be promoted to certain ministerial position or move out.
“These were the signs we needed to pay attention to. Lights were flashing ember and we should have been more alert, but we didn’t at the time,” he said.
In his opening statement at the commission on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said: “This commission is the instrument through which we seek, as a nation, to understand the nature and extent of state capture, to confront it, to hold those responsible to account, and to take the necessary measures to ensure that such events do not occur ever again in our country.”
Ramaphosa is credited by many for fighting corruption and cleaning up government and the ruling ANC.
The Gupta family is headed by three brothers who settled in South Africa two decades ago but have now left the country. Before their departure, their business interests included mining, media, and technology, among others sectors worth billions of dollars.