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Looted R15 billion could be returned to the state – Ramaphosa

The Special Tribunal, made up of eight judges, will fast-track civil claims brought to it by the Special Investigating Unit.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the State of the Nation Address (Sona) in a joint sitting of Parliament on 20 June 2019. Picture: GCIS

CAPE TOWN – President Cyril Ramaphosa said nearly R15 billion looted from the state could soon be returned to government's coffers.

In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night, Ramaphosa announced that the Special Investigating Unit’s Special Tribunal would start its work in the coming months.

The Special Tribunal, made up of eight judges, would fast-track civil claims brought to it by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Ramaphosa said the tribunal, that he announced in February, would start its work “in the next few months”.

“We need to ensure that public money stolen is returned and used to deliver services and much-needed basic infrastructure.”

The president said steps taken to end state capture and fight corruption were already showing results but there was “much more work to do”, including beefing up the National Prosecuting Authority and the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

“The new SIU Special Tribunal will start its work within the next few months to fast track civil claims arising from SIU investigations, which are currently estimated to be around R14.7 billion.”

Ramphosa wanted an end to looting.

“We are committed to building an ethical state in which there is no place for corruption patronage, rent-seeking and the plundering of public money.”

WATCH: 'This is no time to dream' - Politicians react to Ramaphosa's Sona

STATE CAPTURE

• The president said the government would work towards an ethical state, and would not tolerate corruption, patronage, rent-seeking and plundering of public money. To do this, Ramaphosa vowed to strengthen the NPA, SIU, Sars and State Security Agency.

• Ramaphosa said the new SIU Special Tribunal would start its work within the next few months to fast-track civil claims arising from SIU investigations, which are currently estimated to be around R14.7 billion.

• The president also said government only wanted corps of skilled and professional public servants of the highest moral standards, dedicated to the public’s interest.

AILING ECONOMY

Ramaphosa described the country's economic outlook as "extremely weak" as he vowed to speed up emergency funding for the debt-laden Eskom state power supplier.

"Our country is confronted by severe challenges. Our economy is not growing. Not enough jobs are being created. This is the concern that rises above all others," he said.

Ramaphosa came to power last year and has vowed to revive the economy after the scandal-tainted presidency of Jacob Zuma.

But unemployment remains near-record highs and the country's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 3.2% in the first three months of 2019.

"The economic outlook is extremely weak," he said. "For growth, we need a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity."

He warned that Eskom faced "serious financial, operational and structural problems" and could currently only meet its financial commitments until October.

Ramaphosa announced a special parliamentary bill would be introduced to rapidly allocate "a significant portion" of the R230 billion needed by Eskom to survive.

"Eskom is too vital to our economy to be allowed to fail," he said.

The state utility, which generates 90% of the nation's energy, has debts of $30 billion, and its potential collapse is seen as the biggest threat to spurring growth in Africa's most developed economy.

WATCH: Everything you need to know from Sona 2019

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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