ANC admits corruption is a problem

Gwede Mantashe says the ANC’s top leadership must force corrupt members to step down.

ANC's Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the party's national general council in Midrand on 9 October 2015. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress (ANC) has admitted it is in a fix when leaders who are charged with corruption feared looking guilty by stepping down from their positions.

But Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said the party's top national leadership structures must force them to.

The party's organisational report, presented by Mantashe in a closed session on Friday afternoon and obtained by Eyewitness News , starkly warns that perceptions of a corrupt ANC could cost the party at the polls, and even cause it to lose the reins of government.

"Corruption is a big challenge facing our movement, both in government and inside the party," and this should be tackled seriously, according to the report.

"There is a growing general public concern that the movement is corrupt and is protecting those within our ranks who are corrupt."

People will lose trust and faith in the party because of this perception, and it could end up losing power like the Indian Congress party in India.

The integrity commission was established after the party's 2012 Mangaung conference to address public perceptions of rampant corruption in the party, and there was also a resolution that leaders accused of a serious crime should step aside until they were cleared.

In the report, Mantashe admits that the "legal principle of being innocent until proven otherwise has become the stumbling block for the implementation" by the national executive committee of recommendations of the integrity commission.

This was because "comrades feared admitting guilt by stepping aside".

Leaders also tended to close ranks to defend individual leaders who appeared before the integrity commission.

ANC NEC member Pule Mabe's case was one of the most contentious, but he was allowed to run for ANC Youth League president despite corruption charges.

In another section on critical challenges facing the leadership, the report however warned that the "innocent until proven guilty" argument could not hold and that NEC members should step aside voluntariy when charged with serious crime. Failing that, the ANC leadership should force them to do so.

"As the number of these comrades grows we will be unable to sustain the technical argument of innocent until proven guilty."

It continued: "Our comrades are, however, reluctant to step down voluntarily when facing allegations."

But NEC leaders were reluctant to force these charged leaders to step aside.

Despite big concern about corruption in South Africa, and despite large negative perceptions on this matter, the report spends less than half a page in the 69-page report on how the scourge should be dealt with by government.

It urged again that "the ANC must lead in being harsh when dealing with corruption irrespective of who is involved" in order to set a good example.

The report also deals with crime, with the party admitting for the first time that the infighting at the police's leadership level "tends to confuse society" and made criminals more confident. This lead to attacks on law enforcers.

"Lawlessness and anarchy when there are strikes and protests reflects the disrespect for authority and must be curbed," the report said. The public must be confident in law enforcement agencies for them to be successful.