South Africa's President Ramaphosa says corruption has damaged the country.
(Johannesburg News Report)
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa removes his face mask as he appears on behalf of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party before the Zondo Committee of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Ramaphosa must answer questions under oath about his oversight role and his alleged involvement in state capture during his predecessor's tenure.
Rampant corruption has seriously damaged South Africa's economy and people's trust in government, President Cyril Ramaphosa testified Wednesday at a judicial inquiry into graft in the country.
Ramaphosa was addressing the commission investigating "state capture," the term for corruption during former President Jacob Zuma's tenure in which his associates in the Gupta family allegedly gained control of much of the state and its finances.
"State capture and corruption have taken a heavy toll on our society and also on our economy," Ramaphosa said. "They have eroded the values of our constitution and undermined the rule of law. If allowed to continue, they would jeopardize our country's achievement of growth, development, and transformation."
Ramaphosa was speaking before the commission tasked with investigating corruption during Zuma's time as president from 2009 to 2018 when widespread bribery allegations forced him from office. The investigation is being led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
The commission has already heard damning testimony from top officials and former cabinet ministers that Zuma allowed the Gupta family to influence the appointments of cabinet ministers and the heads of state-owned companies to win lucrative government contracts.
Zuma has refused to testify before the commission despite being ordered to do so by the court. Zuma risks being jailed for contempt of court. He is also accused of corruption in government purchases of weapons.
Ramaphosa was Zuma's vice president from 2014 to 2018, when he replaced Zuma.
During his testimony, Ramaphosa admitted that "a lot went terribly wrong" in the country while Zuma was president as the leader of the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela that has ruled South Africa since the end of the racist apartheid system in 1994.
"The capture of the state took place on our watch," said Ramaphosa, who became ANC leader and vowed to root out corruption. He said the bribery had been "hidden and masked" and was only now being uncovered in detail.
Ramaposa's first day of testimony comes a few days after the British government imposed sanctions on members of the Gupta family over evidence of their involvement in corruption in South Africa. The U.S. imposed similar sanctions on members of the Gupta family last year.
Ramaphosa will continue his evidence on Thursday, where he is expected to face questions about political funding for his 2017 presidential campaign.