AngloGold Ashanti Chairman Sipho Pityana on Wednesday lashed out at President Jacob Zuma again, describing him as the “sponsor-in-chief of corruption” as he reiterated his call for the president to step aside.
The country was facing a crisis fuelled by patronage, corruption, mismanagement, unchecked power and widespread apathy, Pityana said at the Mining Indaba in Johannesburg.
He called on citizens and businesses to help “save South Africa”.
The Johannesburg mining indaba gave Pityana a standing ovation after his blunt speech to key industry players, including chief executives, labour unions, and investors, charging that Zuma was at the root of the crisis in South Africa.
He said business was missing in action in calling for Zuma’s resignation.
“Zuma must go, for the sake of our country he has to go,” he said, to rousing applause from the audience.
”While the debate over state capture rages and corruption grows, we have a president who, at best, missing in action, at worst, at the root of this crisis. He had abrogated his constitutional duties and was facing hundreds of corruption charges. Those closest to him appeared to be beneficiaries of the disaster in governance, Pityana said.
He said corruption was spreading. National Treasury had identified almost R26bn in irregular expenditure across all government departments, and there were no consequences.
Pityana said leaders found guilty of corruption or misrepresentation no longer fell on their swords for the greater good, but remained in office.
“And why not, when we have a president who literally laughs off any suggestion that government be held to a higher standard – and is, in fact, the sponsor-in-chief of corruption?”
Pityana has been calling for Zuma to step down. He says he has support from business, churches and non-governmental organisations.
He said if there had been a case to remove former president Thabo Mbeki in September 2008, it was even more compelling in Zuma’s case.
“If the ANC keeps Zuma, then they endorse what he represents. They will endorse the fact that he lacks integrity.”
Pityana first publicly called for Zuma’s resignation last month at the funeral of former sports and recreation minister Makhenkesi Stofile in the Eastern Cape.
Since then, civil society and Sibanye Gold CEO Neal Froneman echoed the call for Zuma’s resignation.
“The elephant in the room is a president who lacks integrity and lacks honour. None of the promises he makes to any segment of society can be held on to, because he lacks integrity,” he said.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the event, Pityana said it was possible to remove Zuma. He cited the impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff – a development that had helped improve Brazil’s currency.
“I think if he (Zuma) were to resign, it would lead to a huge difference for the economy. If there was a case to remove former president Thabo Mbeki from office, there is an even more compelling case to remove Zuma,” he said.
“He (Zuma) lacks integrity and has put the ANC into disrepute. The ANC has a negative view on anyone who puts the organisation into disrepute. I feel that removing Zuma will help reposition the ANC,” added Pityana.
“If I thought that this (call for Zuma to step down) would put AngloGold Ashanti into jeopardy, I would easily step down and continue to call for Zuma to step down,” he said.
He said that business and ordinary citizens should not bury their heads in the sand, but speak out about the corruption.
Pityana also noted that the nationwide #FeesMustFall protests at tertiary institutions was a reaction to a state that simply shrugged its shoulders and closed its pockets.
“We owe them our empathy and support,” he said.
Last month, former government spokesperson Mzwanele “Jimmy” Manyi laid formal complaints against Pityana with the Hawks.
The Decolonisation Foundation leader accused Pityana of encouraging people to rise up against Zuma, which he claimed amounted to treason. Pityana said Manyi had no case in law to back his allegations.
Pityana said the Constitution allowed citizens the right to recall a president before the end of his term, either through a vote of no confidence in Parliament, by persuading him to resign, or having his party recall him.
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“If Manyi had the time, I would give him a free lecture,” Pityana said.
He defended Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as a “rare example of probity and good governance”, a distinguished public servant who was leading the effort to avert an investment downgrade.