EDITORIAL | Tricky integrity challenge for ANC

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The work of the ANC’s integrity commission was always going to be a contentious yet defining moment of Cyril Ramaphosa’s presidency.At a time when every other ANC leader who holds a position of power has, in one way or another, been implicated in wayward behaviour – some more serious than others – enforcing accountability on ethical rather than legal terms was always going to be met with a deliberate push-back.The party’s national executive committee met at the weekend.According to media reports, Ramaphosa told the NEC the commission wanted at least 23 leaders to decline public office, because they were implicated in wrongdoing.Only it would seem that beyond allegations reported in the media, the commission presented very little by way of evidence.This poses two challenges for the commission and, by extension, for Ramaphosa.Those implicated could very well argue that without concrete evidence presented by the commission, its recommendations were based on hearsay and could not be relied upon to inform decisions about deployment.Second, should its recommendations be rejected by the accused individuals, the commission has neither the political clout nor the legal capacity to enforce them.If anything, this opens the commission up to accusations that it is playing into factional politics, therefore undermining its very legitimacy as an internal accountability mechanism.Crucially, it also undermines Ramaphosa’s claimed reform attempts, the very basis of the narrative that helped him ascend to the highest office in the land.The ANC is yet to take a formal position on the integrity commission’s report as it is expected to deliberate.However, what is clear is that if the commission’s recommendations are rejected, regardless of the reasons, such a move would affirm a deeply held view by critics that no matter what Ramaphosa says, at its very core the ANC is so compromised that it is impossible for it to reform in any meaningful way.

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