State deputy president and ANC presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted the need for an urgent judicial inquiry into state capture -- but stopped short of supporting calls for President Jacob Zuma's head to roll.
Speaking out against Zuma would surely land Ramaphosa in the hottest of waters. We have already seen the ANC threatening members and affiliates who motion for Number One's recalling, saying they would be found guilty of misconduct.
Ramaphosa's softer hand on these matters could reflect further on his race for the presidency -- he may be aware that he cannot win at December's elective conference if he does not speak the language of state capture.
But at the same time, he has to do so without directly hurting the ANC.
In his responses to parliamentary questions on Wednesday, rather than attacking the elephant in the room, Ramaphosa remained characteristically diplomatic when MPs cited Zuma's alleged role in state capture revealed in the leaked Gupta emails.
Off the mark, the ANC's Mondli Gungubele -- the former mayor of Ekurhuleni who previously called for Zuma to step down -- asked how government plans to prevent the corporate capture of state-owned enterprises in the future.
Ramaphosa was quick to acknowledge the abundance of allegations surrounding state officials currently in the spotlight, saying "much evidence" has been published about the "undue influence" of "some people" on government institutions and the state in relation to non-transparent appointments and procurement decisions.
But he did not mention the names of these people he spoke of nor those institutions involved.
"The allegations are of grave concern. State capture is something we all as South Africans should not and cannot tolerate," Ramaphosa said.
He reiterated that Zuma is not opposed to the establishing of a judicial commission of inquiry and said the president is currently in the process of consulting his legal advisors on the matter.
Ever the diplomat
Ramaphosa said any inquiry needed not only to bring corrupted officials to book, but it would also be a chance for those who have been implicated to vindicate themselves.
"It is in the interests of all South Africans that a commission of inquiry be set up as quickly as possible so that all those who have evidence can present it to a competent body and those implicated can respond to the allegations against them. The veracity of the claims need to be established and where crimes have been committed, those people must be prosecuted and brought to book."
When the Economic Freedom Fighters' Hlengiwe Hlophe asked Ramaphosa whether he supported the calls for an inquiry, the deputy president said he did, and that those fingered by the allegations should support it too because it provided an opportunity for them to "clear their names".
Even when the Democratic Alliance's David Maynier cited Zuma's alleged role in state capture and the calls for him to step down, Ramaphosa just reiterated that the inquiry would allow for "those whose names are mentioned" to explain their actions.