South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says a scathing report by an inquiry into state graft marks “the end of an era” of corruption. But analysts say it’s only the beginning of efforts needed to restore public trust in South Africa’s political institutions.

For more than three years, South Africans watched the public proceedings of a national inquiry into graft under the tenure of former President Jacob Zuma.

That’s why its findings of systemic corruption released by Justice Raymond Zondo late Tuesday didn’t come as a surprise.

Instead, the public is waiting to see what comes next.

Narnia Bohler-Muller is a professor with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council.

“Now people want to see consequences and accountability,” she said. “People are losing trust in government and in democracy, so we don’t want to go to a point beyond no return. I do really think that we may be saved by a response that is going to be a proper implementation plan and action. If that doesn’t happen, then I don’t know, then we will not be living in a democracy.”

She says public trust in government has been on the decline since 2009 — coinciding with Zuma’s time in office.

The new report focused on corrupt contract tenders and political kickbacks in relation to South African Airways, the state revenue agency and public procurement.

It recommended prosecution against former high-ranking lawmakers and their public and private sector affiliates.

But charges may not come swiftly.

Olwethu Majola, a lawyer and doctoral candidate in criminology at the University of Cape Town, says further investigations need to take place.

“We’re going to see law enforcement, such as the police or special investigative unit, conducting their own investigations based on the preliminary commission. Depending on how far or how long it takes for investigations to be concluded, perhaps within, you know, two years, we can see charges being brought against individuals,” she said.

Majola says the former president will be among those to face prosecution.

In this Frame grab former South Africa President Jacob Zuma, appears on a screen virtually from the correctional service facility Estcourt, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, July 19, 2021.

In this Frame grab former South Africa President Jacob Zuma, appears on a screen virtually from the correctional service facility Estcourt, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, July 19, 2021.

Zuma was already found guilty of contempt of court last year for failing to appear before the inquiry. He has long denied any wrongdoing and called the inquiry biased.

Zuma maintains a loyal following of supporters who don’t want to see the former leader imprisoned.

In addition to consequences, the inquiry has also made recommendations to prevent state graft, including the formation of an independent corruption agency.

Richard Chelin is a senior researcher on organized crime for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

“The key question is political interference,” she said. “How do you create a body that is so independent? How do you fund such a body? Which is very difficult. I think these are the struggles that a lot of the anti-corruption, that is faced globally — is how do you maintain independence? And who do they answer to?”

The public still has months to wait for any government action. Two more reports from the inquiry will be released in the coming weeks.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will then deliver the full report to parliament by the end of June before implementing its recommendations.

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