Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has criticized the Cyril Ramaphosa-led government, saying it has failed.
The former leader accused Mr. Ramaphosa of not addressing the issues of poverty and corruption in government as promised. He also warned that if drastic measures were not taken to address the current situations in the country, South Africa might experience an ‘Arab Spring.’
The criticism is coming weeks after news broke about a theft scandal involving the disappearance of $4 million from the president’s farm.
Mr. Mbeki made the remarks during a speech he delivered at the memorial service of Late Mrs. Jessie Duarte, an African National Congress (ANC) stalwart who died on July 17. During his speech, the respected elder statesman criticized the current government for turning a blind eye to the plight of the masses and corruption in government.
“There is no national plan to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, it doesn’t exist,” Mbeki said at the service yesterday. “To serve the people requires that we address these issues.”
In what appeared as a direct attack on the current president, Mr. Mbeki criticized President Ramaphosa for failing to deliver on his campaign promises. He also predicted civil unrest in the country that might “spark our own version of the Arab Spring.”
“A street hawker was abused by the police, and that enraged the country; that’s how that massive uprising happened in Tunisia, the problems were brewing beneath the surface and it needed a little spark,” Mbeki explained.
“One of these days it’s going to happen to us, you can’t have so many people unemployed and poor, one day it is going to trigger an uprising,” he added.
In recent times, South Africa has been in the news for the wrong reasons, with a recent World Bank report stating that about 30.3 million South African citizens are living in poverty. It also revealed that 13.8 million people in the country were facing food insecurity. In its defense, the government has linked food scarcity to rising food prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mbeki also addressed the corruption issue, saying citizens are “faced with a leadership in the ANC where they see people, one after another, being accused of corruption.”
You will recall that Ramaphosa’s campaign in the run-up to the ANC elective conference in 2017, which propelled him to the presidency a year later, focused on fighting corruption under the banner of a “New Dawn”. But a 2021 survey conducted by Afrobarometer found that the public believed corruption was more prevalent under Ramaphosa’s administration than that of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.
In a recent report, the state-run Special Investigating Unit (SIU) said it recovered more than $290m in stolen goods from irregular and unlawful government contracts relating to life-saving PPE resources that were meant to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mbeki, who was removed from office in 2008 after a brutal factional war within the ruling ANC, had never openly criticized Ramaphosa before. And while the former president was a thorn in the flesh of his former deputy and eventual successor, Zuma, he never predicted a revolt.
These are not the best times for Ramaphosa, who is currently facing dissent from within ANC ranks, with some party members participating in a rally last week calling for his removal.
The president has been accused of corruption in connection with the theft of $4m in cash from his farm. Also, the former State Security Agency (SSA) director Arthur Fraser had earlier filed a criminal complaint against Ramaphosa in June 2022 for alleged money laundering, kidnapping, and concealing a crime.
Ramaphosa has been served a subpoena from the Public Protector’s office, a government watchdog, to compel him to answer questions about the alleged theft at Phala Phala Wildlife. He has until Friday to comply.
In a statement on Friday, Corruption Watch, a civil organization, said the subpoena “strikes the right chord at a time when the country is badly in need of accountability and transparency from its leaders.”
“The president has an obligation to account to the public and the institutions that are created to hold public officials to account.
"He must do the right thing and submit himself to the same processes that he demands of others, otherwise he risks eroding trust in government and damaging the ethical standing of his office,” the statement read.