Sona: ‘State Capture was the greatest test of democracy’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has labelled state capture as the most formidable challenge to South Africa’s democracy since the country embraced autonomous governance three decades ago.

Ramaphosa was delivering his State of the Nation (Sona) address at the National Assembly in Cape Town on Thursday.

His address marked the culmination of the 6th administration’s tenure, setting the stage for the election of a new democratic president later this year.

Ramaphosa underlined the deep-seated impacts of state capture. He highlighted the ongoing struggles faced by the country. These include the lack of essential infrastructure, failing public services, and the underperformance of critical sectors.

State capture during Zuma’s tenure

State capture, particularly during the presidency of Jacob Zuma, emerged as a dark period in South Africa’s history. It was characterised by systemic political corruption and the overpowering influence of private interests over state affairs. He identified the Gupta family as the big part of this influence.

This era was marked by widespread corruption that infiltrated various government sectors and state-owned enterprises. It led to the misappropriation of billions of rands intended for public use. Also the erosion of public confidence, and the weakening of vital institutions.

“Billions of rands that were meant to meet the needs of ordinary South Africans were stolen. Confidence in our country was badly eroded. Public institutions were severely weakened. 

Effects still being felt

“The effects of state capture continue to be felt across society, from the shortage of freight locomotives to crumbling public services. From the poor performance of our power stations to failed development projects,” he said. 

Despite these challenges, the president pointed to the resilience and collective effort of South Africans, including public officials. He lauded their efforts in combating corruption and working towards restoring integrity within the nation’s institutions.

Since taking office in 2018, Ramaphosa said his administration prioritised the eradication of state capture, striving to bring perpetrators to justice and rehabilitate key institutions.

Billions of rands recouped

He said significant strides have been made and they will continue to fight.

“Freezing orders of R14-billion have been granted to NPA for state capture-related cases. A restored Sars has collected R4.8-billion in unpaid taxes. These were the result of evidence presented to the state capture commission.

“All these efforts have demonstrated how South Africans value the freedom that was won after decades of struggle,” said the president.

“It is not enough to recognise the injustices of the past. We need to correct them.”

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