Cape Town – Former president FW De Klerk says President Jacob Zuma’s term must and should end soon. However, he acknowledged that Zuma’s position is delicate, and that he himself had been in the same position.
De Klerk, 81, was speaking to journalists on Friday at a press briefing on the sidelines of the FW De Klerk Foundation’s annual conference, which this year has the theme of ‘South Africa Beyond State Capture’.
He was asked about the transition of power from Zuma to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“(Zuma’s term) should end soon and it will end soon, and I think we need to understand it is a delicate position. I was in that position. PW Botha resigned as leader of the (National) Party but not as president of the country.
“It was six months – he was ill, but for six months I was leader of the party, effectively defining policy for the party at the time while he was holding the powerful office of the president,” said De Klerk.
“I know how difficult it is to arrange such a transition and we must show some understanding of the need of some time, but not too much time.”
De Klerk said that he was not in discussions with Ramaphosa and did not want to “interfere” with him at the moment.
The former president also supported calls for the postponement of the State of the Nation Address (SONA). “I personally think we should allow time for the ANC to settle its internal situation. And I was supportive of the idea that the SONA would even be postponed.”
He also spoke on the views of the international community on state capture in South Africa. “I think it is now international knowledge that state capture has been a reality in South Africa.”
But he added there is new hope that it will be dealt with effectively.
Investors, said De Klerk, had exerted pressure on South Africa to deal with state capture, by withholding their investment.
In his view Ramaphosa returned from the World Economic Forum with positive news, and that South Africa must put state capture behind it, deal with its legacy and focus on again attracting investment.
De Klerk said that Ramaphosa has started well in his role as ANC president, but it would be important to watch his actions in dealing with state capture and corruption.
“There was a general perception that a win by his opponent (Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) would have further entrenched the system of state capture and corruption that has characterised the presidency of Jacob Zuma,” he said.
“The key question is whether Mr Ramaphosa has the power, the will and the intention to restore integrity to the core of government.”
De Klerk said the question of Ramaphosa restoring the integrity of government depended on his ability to consolidate his power within the ANC.
An additional factor to consider was how Ramaphosa would re-establish the independence of institutions such as the office of the Public Protector and the Hawks.
“Dealing successfully with these challenges will require immense political skill, perseverance, courage and integrity. Mr Ramaphosa has begun well,” he said.
He acknowledged that Ramaphosa had made the “right statements about corruption” but that the true test lies in Ramaphosa’s actions, not his words.
Scenario planner and CEO if the Institute of Race Relations Frans Cronje also delivered an address at the conference, where he referred to what the new ANC president needed to do to get the country back on track.
“The first is the restoration of the rule of law. It is a month into the year but the signs so far are promising… The test will be to see if these early actions translate into a raft of successful prosecutions,” said Cronje.
The second task is economic policy reform, which requires Ramaphosa to deal with the budget deficit. “Mr Ramaphosa’s new administration may not as a consequence, immediately, have the money it needs to develop the infrastructure needed to support an economic recovery while also delivering on the welfare and service delivery demands of several million households,” he said.
While Cronje said the answer to the budget deficit lies in economic growth,economic projections show growth rates may underperform. “Policy makers are talking of taking the economic growth rate up to 2%. That is nowhere near the watershed level for breaking the structural unemployment crisis.”
The third task for Ramaphosa was improving the state of the country’s education.
Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is set to address the conference next.
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